Building a Sensory Bedroom for Kids with Autism.

Your child has needs and wants that can be unique and interesting! One of the best ways to accommodate a child with autism’s need for non-overwhelming stimulation is to create a space for them to explore their senses in the comfort and safety of home.

A sensory bedroom can be monumentally advantageous to your child’s development and is a great way to keep them happy and relaxed.  A sensory bedroom combines the effectiveness of sensory rooms that one might find in a traditional autism specialist’s office or at an autism learning center with the safety, comfort, and convenience of home. Of course, your child’s specific needs and desires for what their cool new room will look like is going to be unique. You know your child better than anyone, so ultimately, only you know what’s best when it comes to outfitting their sensory bedroom.

Let’s walk through a few sensory room ideas when it comes to furniture best suited for autism and amenities available for their new room.

Atmosphere

A sensory bedroom is a place for your child to explore their senses and learn about the world around them.  It’s also a place for them to feel safe and comfortable so that they can fully focus on their activity. As such, the atmosphere, lighting, and smell of the room should be equal parts stimulating and familiar.

For the lighting for your child’s sensory bedroom, choose a soothing color for the comfort and familiarity.  A soft white, purple, blue or pink is the best way to illuminate the room in a way that is interesting, yet calming. For additional stimulation, consider finding some neat fiber optic decor or softly blinking or pulsing additions.  Obviously, harsh tones and strobing effects are to be entirely avoided.

For the scent of the room, nothing is better than an essential oil diffuser or room freshener.  Play with scents to see what your child responds to most. Use sharper scents like citrus and mint to stimulate and energize, and softer scents like eucalyptus and lavender to relax.  If your child has a favorite scent, use that! Note that lighter use of essential oils is recommended for most autistic children, as strong scents can be intimidating and uncomfortable.

Seating

For relaxing, gaming, eating and more, choosing the right seat for your child’s sensory bedroom is important.  One of the most popular types of seats among children with autism are swings. Swings are captivating and stimulate your child’s vestibular sense, which can aid in the development of balance and motor skills.  Plus, they can be loads of fun!

Floor seating is also important.  All children love to get on the floor for some serious playtime.  Accommodate by providing an interesting and comfortable arrangement for sitting on the ground, such as a patterned carpet or rubberized floor tiles.

Amenities

Amenities are the things that really set a sensory bedroom apart from a regular old bedroom. These are the things that your child will be occupying his or herself with during play time and relaxation, so it’s important to make them interesting, engaging, comforting and safe. Let’s break up this category into a few different sections:

Movable Decor

Children like to explore different arrangements and looks in their rooms. In order to accommodate this, it can be extremely helpful to add lighter furniture, bedroom and decorations that can be easily and safely moved by your child.

One example of this is an LED cube, sphere, or other shape.  LEDs are considered a harmless source of light (no heat, flame, or sparking), so they’re perfect for this sort of thing.  They can also be programmed to pulse different colors to make things more interesting for your child.

Another great way to give your child a way to control the look and feel of their room is through soft, movable seating, such as beanbags, floor mats, or crash pads.

Playable Surfaces

Even as adults, nothing is quite as stimulating to us as our tactile sense.  Being able to touch things and feel their texture, composition and weight in our hands is something that is almost uniquely human, so it’s no surprise that it’s also popular with children.

Consider adding a small table or surface in the room that can contain small, granular or moldable items for tactile stimulation.  Dry beans, rice, and pasta are a great choice. Kinetic sand is also a favorite, along with good old fashioned Play-Doh! Allowing your child to work with his or her hands is not just mentally stimulating: it also helps develop smaller hand muscles to build up motor skills.  Note that some children struggle with swallowing small parts, which can be a choking hazard. Take this into account when developing your child’s play surface.

It can also be a good idea to give your child a surface upon which they can express their creative side!  Whiteboard walls are perfect for this. Children love to write on walls, so giving them a space to do that which can be easily wiped clean is a great idea.  Providing work surfaces helps develop pattern recognition and creation, drawing ability, spatial reasoning, and creative thinking!

Climbable Arrangements

Climbing comes naturally to a lot of children.  Providing your child a way to safely climb about is a great way to give them both exercise and a sense of adventure.  Install an easy-to-climb vertical surface with something soft underneath it, and see where your child’s imagination takes them!

Safety Measures

Your child’s safety is paramount.  Take all of the precautions you would for any child (installing socket covers, softening hard corners, latching windows, etc.), and then add on any unique safety measures your child might need or want in their sensory bedroom.  Perhaps your child is a very skilled climber, in which case you may want a movable crash pad or designated padded climbing area. If your child can seemingly find their way out of just about any room, consider installing an interior child lock, so they can’t wriggle their way out and go somewhere that isn’t safe for them.  Finally, always have a plan ready in case any medical emergency occurs.

Bed

The bed in a sensory bedroom is important to get right, but it doesn’t need to be complicated.  Simply choose something that your child sleeps well in, be it a floor mat or a small mattress. After all, a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things for your child’s development.  Bedspread should be comfortable but not suffocating. It’s important to note that many autistic children, particularly those with sensory processing disorder, become uncomfortable with tight fitting sheets or blankets.  

By the way, a lot of children’s bedspreads display large colorful images of superheroes or movie characters.  Keep in mind that sometimes, these images can be uncomfortable for some children. Instead, opt for a more muted color or pattern.

 

Bottom Line

Hopefully, you’re forming some sensory room ideas about what your child may like in their bedroom.  When it comes to building a sensory bedroom for your child with autism, just have fun with it. Also, be sure to involve your child in the design process.  See what they respond to, what they like, and what they don’t like. In no time, you’ll have the perfect sensory bedroom for your child! For more information and resources, check out our page for parents of children with autism!  Carmen B. Pingree Autism Center of Learning is here to help with anything you might need!

Learn More About Our Programs