Bedroom Design for Kids with Sensory Issues
By This Old House
For kids with neurodiversity, bedroom design involves more than painting the walls their favorite color and buying sheets with a beloved cartoon character. You must also consider how lighting, colors, and furniture might affect your child’s comfort, safety, and self-regulation.
Each child is unique, and knowing whether your child is sensory avoidant or sensory seeking will help you make design choices. Sharon Kaye-O’Connor, LCSW, an autistic psychotherapist and autism educator, emphasizes the importance of customization. “Some kids will fit a more sensory-sensitive profile, while others will be much more sensory seeking,” she says.
Whether you are transitioning your child from a nursery to a “big-kid” bedroom or decorating a new room after a long-distance move, it’s important to optimize your child’s space. Most of the tips below focus on a child who is sensory sensitive and needs a calming environment for nighttime.
Lighting – A child with sensory processing difficulties needs a room with appropriate lighting. Jana Sarno, BCBA, chief clinical officer at Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers, recommends choosing lights you can dim in the evening for your child’s bedroom and bathroom. Dimmable lighting can help calm your child when they’re feeling overwhelmed or when it’s time to wind down for the night.
Colors and Patterns – Bright colors and busy patterns can overstimulate some children. It may be best to avoid bold designs in favor of soft, muted colors. Green, blue, and purple are often calming colors, as are earth tones and pastels. Muted tones of your child’s favorite color might be your starting point.
Textures – Ttactile elements can also overstimulate a child. Beckham Shetty explains that choosing soft textures “is not a one-size-fits-all suggestion; however, it is an easily customizable solution. Layer the room with blankets, pillows, and rugs. This will not only have an impact on textures, it also absorbs sound and helps with spatial audio.”
Play and Sleep Zones – If your child’s sleep and play areas are in the same room, consider creating two distinct areas: one for sensory stimulation and play and one for sensory deprivation and sleep. In the first zone, place tactile toys and active seating.The second zone should be quieter—a place for winding down and sleeping. Sarno also recommends placing overstimulating items in a closet or drawer at night.
Safe Furniture – If your child is sensory seeking and you choose climbing furniture and other pieces that your child might play on, make sure the furniture is sturdy and appropriately anchored to the wall or floor.
Sounds – Kaye-O’Connor points out that some children benefit from music or an ambient noise machine. Sarno recommends placing a sound machine with white noise or other relaxing sounds in the bedroom for your child to use as needed.
Every child is unique, so the tips in this article are just a starting place for designing your child’s perfect bedroom. For the full article check out This Old House.