Most of the furniture available for a child's bedroom is bold, bright and full of a variety of patterns, shapes and textures. Most kids thrive in an environment surrounded by things like this, but when your child is on the autism spectrum, it can lead to meltdowns and sensory overload. Shopping for bedroom furniture for kids on the spectrum means considering a lot of things that you wouldn't otherwise have to think about. Here are some of the things that you'll want to keep in mind when you're ready to furnish your child's bedroom.
Opt Out of Breakable Features
If you're investing in wardrobe closets or dressers with any breakable features, consider replacing breakables. For example, ask for solid doors on the wardrobe closets instead of doors with glass panels. Look for dressers that don't include a mirror, or leave the mirror off when you place the dresser in the room. Mirrors and glass panels are a nice addition to most rooms, but they can be a hazard for kids on the spectrum.
Focus on Durable Construction
From meltdowns to sensory-seeking behavior and spatial awareness issues, kids with autism spectrum disorders can be hard on furniture. The best way to combat this is to invest in furniture that's heavy, durable and stable. The heavier the furniture, the better. This ensures that your child cannot move or lift the furniture, which protects him or her from injury during a meltdown.
Consider Sensory Input
Children with autism spectrum disorders can be either sensory-seeking or sensory-avoiding. Consider which of these apply to your child before you invest in furniture, because a space tailored to his or her preferences is a safe, welcoming environment. If your child avoids sensory input, avoid investing in anything that's too brightly colored or textured.
For kids who thrive with soft, fluffy or cushioned things, consider investing in bean bag chairs, overstuffed seats and throw pillows. A futon with a large fluffy cushion is a nice touch, too. Avoid anything that's been known to trigger sensory stress in your child, because it will make the bedroom uncomfortable. You'll know what bothers him or her simply by watching the visible reactions when your child sees or touches certain items.
Make the Space Safe
When babies start learning to pull up on furniture and walk, edge bumpers and cushions are a great investment. They are equally beneficial when you have a child on the spectrum. Kids on the spectrum are notoriously clumsy, primarily because their motor skills develop more slowly. This can lead to injuries caused by bumping into or falling on the corners and edges of furniture.
When possible, add padding to furniture edges. If your child still uses a bed rail, put padding over the rail in case he or she hits it. Skip the square tables and sharp-edged chairs. Instead, look for rounded tables and bean bag chairs or balance balls.
You'll also want to avoid anything with long ties, strings or ropes. Skip the adjustment ropes on window blinds. If you must have an adjustment cord or curtain tie in the room, use clips to keep them up out of reach of your child. Don't overlook basic safety features, too.
Remove the lock from your child's door so that he or she can't get locked in the room. Make sure that tall furniture has anchor points on the back so that you can secure them to the walls. This is vital for kids who are prone to violent outbursts during meltdowns. Talk with your child's occupational therapist about any personalized safety considerations to coincide with the current therapy path.
The goal is to make your child's bedroom his or her safe place to retreat when the sensory input in the immediate environment is too much. With the tips presented here, you can have the confidence that your child is protected and secure in the bedroom and it's free of anything that could intensify the meltdowns and emotional upset. Talk with local furniture stores like Design Center Furniture to explore your options before you start the remodel to make it easier to plan the layout as you work.
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