While much focus is given to modifying the disruptive behavior of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), an equal amount of care must be given to modifying the child’s home environment to promote better behavior. Proper modifications can minimize distractions, increase concentration and productivity, help maintain the child’s arousal and frustration level, as well as keep them safe.
While there’s generally no one size fits all solution, one thing is clear: a safe home environment is essential to their enhanced participation in life. This guide will provide several home solutions you can consider based on your individual situation.
Exterior Locks Children with ASD are prone to “wander” or “elope” or run away. If this is the case, you may want to consider some type of locking system.
- A deadbolt with a key is one of the most secure locks. For some, the addition of an extra key and having to locate it to exit in an emergency, is a drawback.
- There are a wide variety of keyless lock systems to consider, like card swipe systems, biometric systems (fingerprint detection) and digital keypad deadlocks.
Interior Locks It may also be necessary to add kitchen and bathroom cabinet locks to secure items that are potentially unsafe.
Alarms The least expensive option is to self install a Slide Away monitor on your windows and doors. These can be found at your local hardware store for as little as $5-10. Remember, these have to be turned on and off manually each time you leave or enter. The alternate is a home security system which activates with one keypad which arms and disarms all window and door alerts.
Bedroom Your child’s bedroom should be their sensory sanctuary.
Thing to consider, include:
- Color – In a 2016 study published in Front Psychology, yellow was determined to produce the most sensory overload, with red as the least. Yet many experts say to avoid all primary colors. With this in mind, unless you’re sticking with white, the best solution is to observe what colors your child does and doesn’t respond to before deciding.
- Lighting – Filtered light is the best option and can easily be provided by replacing the light switch with a dimmer switch.
- Organization – A clutter free space is critical to calm. Put items in clear containers with visual labels, and place them where they are easily accessible.
- Bedding – Some children benefit from “weighted” bedding and some do not so consult with your doctor. Do, though, select a soothing color and a soft texture.
- Electronics – A white noise machine only.
Wall decor – Too many wall hangings leads to sensory issues, so consider choosing only one picture per wall. Also, avoid wall shelving. ASD children are often looking for objects for “stimming” so this presents a danger.
Signs Incorporating visual signs, such as STOP signs on doors helps establish boundaries. You can also use red and green tape on the floor to designate safe zones.
Electricity and Appliance Safety Make sure to cover all electrical outlets, and properly conceal all electrical cords. The intense curiosity to see how things work can make these hazards. Additionally, children with autism have sought the confined space of a washer or dryer, therefore, it is best to keep this room locked.
Create a labeling system Similar to the function of labeling found in special needs classrooms, labeling items that your child uses at home everyday helps decrease frustration. It also sets boundaries for what is and what isn’t there’s to work or play with.
Add some exercise Consider adding a mini trampoline or a Bosu Balance Trainer to your living area. Exercises on these devices are shown to help children with ASD.
There are many ways you can modify your home to make it a more sensory friendly environment, and getting started with some of these will be a good jumping off point. Consult with your physician on other resources and ideas for your child’s specific needs. Remember, your child’s quality of life, may require a little discomfort on your part as you move away from a beautifully decorated dream home, to a safe and comfortable home for your child.