Designing the best room for your child
Are you contemplating the best ways to design a room for an autistic child? Then you have arrived at the right place. Since they have challenges with social skills, non-verbal communication, and have repetitive behaviors, treating children with autism with love and care is paramount.
The most common challenges children with autism experience are their hyper-sensitivity and hypo-sensitivity to their sensory stimuli. But what are hyper and hypo sensitivities, and is there a difference between them?
Difference between Hyper-sensitivity and Hypo-sensitivity
Hypersensitive children become uncomfortable when they experience even the tiniest encounter with environmental stimuli. His can take various forms ranging from vision, hearing, touch, and vestibular hypersensitivity.
Hypo-sensitive children excessively touch things, make noises, wave their hands around, constantly put objects in their mouth, and constantly seeking movement stimulation.
Characteristics of Hype-sensitivity and Hypo-sensitivity
A child with hyper vision does not like bright light and faces down most of the time. For such a child, focusing on the detail rather than the whole object is more pleasurable. Due to light disturbances, such a child may find it difficult to sleep.
Therefore, when designing a room for a child with this form of autism, avoiding lightings with ballasts and flickering ones is key. Such lights may trigger events like seizures, migraines, and tics in the child's nervous system. In addition, installing therapeutic light sources offers a child with hyper-vision relief and can soothe them. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects children who are light sensitive. They become glum in winter. Since fluorescent does not have a balanced sectoral aspect of light, they increase the visual stress on a child with autism. Therefore, you should entirely avoid them.
Hypo-vision is a form of under-sensitivity where a child doesn't see images. Such a child's central vision appears blurry, although their peripheral vision is clear. Illuminating the pathways and stairs is the best design practice to help them. Install LED strips in the kitchen, bathrooms, and cabinetry to help guide their movement. In addition, make your edges and corners round to avoid injury.
A child with autism can also be highly sensitive to sound. They hear an amplified version of a sound to hear the humming of an appliance that other people cannot. Such a child is a light sleeper and gets frightened by sounds that are sudden and unpredictable. Such children avoid noisy events.
Using sound-absorbing materials in the design of their rooms can help reduce noise pollution. Such materials may include sound absorbent tiles, rubber-made floors, and tile wall panned. Orienting the bed's head away from a shared wall, dampening noise using plenty of soft goods, and installing quitter toilets and showers are better design practices for hyper-hearing autistic children.
A child may be hypo-hearing. This means that they aren't sensitive to noise, and it is hard to hear on both or one ear. They cannot know where a sound is coming from or even register some sounds. Such a child enjoys loud noise and often turns a TV's volume up. They also love banging doors and talk to themselves.
Since sound excites them, they create noise in various places, such as the kitchen, secure kitchen cabinets to prevent injury from sharp objects. Alternatively, you can use light to direct such a child's attention. The best design practice, though, is installing visual cues. Cards with pictures placed in various rooms can help a child with this kind of autism to better understand the directions without reliance on hearing.
A hyper-tactile child pulls away whenever a person tries to hug or touch them. A slight touch can lead to a panic attack. Such a child feels pain whenever you try to clean them, comb their hair or even have it shaved. Avoid having cold metals on the furniture in such a child's room and install natural materials.
Hypo-tactile children do not experience pain or even temperature changes. They are injury-prone without knowing. They bang their heads on the floor and constantly bite their hands. Having a place for weighted items in the child's room, using an induction cooktop in the kitchen to prevent burning, and having dishwashers and ovens with buttons out of reach are some of the design considerations for hypo-tactile children's rooms.
Of the seven senses, the vestibular sense is one of the less known. It's related to the inner part of the ear that affects balance. This leads to poor physical coordination, sequencing and timing difficulties, poor memory, and difficulty understanding languages.
Vestibular hypersensitive children have a fear of slides, swings, or even stairs. They are poor at sports as they have difficulty in walking, changing directions, and crawling. After spinning, running, or jumping, they feel disoriented.
Having important rooms at the house level, positioning the furniture at the edges of the house to ease movement are some of the design ideas you can follow. In case you have stairs, use colors or light that can help identify changes in the flooring.
A vestibular hypo-sensitive child is under-sensitive. They often want to be stimulated. They can swing, spin or twirl their bodies but cannot get nauseated. A child with a hypo-sensitive proprioceptive system jumps a lot to create an input to their joints and muscles. They may appear aggressive as they like roughhousing others and have bull-like behaviors.
Using soft objects that do not have corners in their rooms helps avoid injuries. Also, use durable furniture made of quality construction materials such as dovetail joints and solid wood. Install swing doors in their rooms. For various activities that stimulate their vestibular senses, create obstacle courses. The obstacle courses can be easily kept away and locked up.
Autism is a disorder affecting many of the people in our society. Clearly understanding what form of autism and sensory sensitivity a child has is critical in determining the design practice to employ when designing their room. The interior designer's responsibility is to understand the child's hyper-sensitivity and design the space that minimizes harm to the child and destruction of property. Those with autism deserve our love and utmost care.