If you’re a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you know how important your child’s environment is to their well-being. Between school, therapy and other social engagements or plans, there are a multitude of ways your child can be triggered into sensory overload. Ordinary activities can quickly become overwhelming to your child’s senses, especially those activities that expose them to bright lights, strong smells, loud noises or several different touch stimulations.
As such, it is important to control those factors in every space you can. Your home should be a sanctuary to those over-stimulating experiences but realistically, family life isn’t always calm and collected. With siblings and visitors, it can be a but unpredictable. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to ensure your home is autism and sensory friendly in every sense despite those unforeseen circumstances. In this post, we’ll break down 5 ways to make sure your home is autism-friendly.
1. Schedule everything.
More specifically, schedule everything that you possibly can. Those unforeseen circumstances that we spoke about earlier are bound to happen once in awhile, but if you have every other routine and process scheduled out for your family, you are much more likely to create a comfortable environment for your child on the spectrum.
If you have other children or family members around, ensure that they can share their personal schedules with you, or better yet, keep an easily accessible and visible “family calendar” on a wall in your home with everyone’s schedules laid bare. This can work wonders in assuring everyone is comfortable in their own space.
2. Give your child space.
That means both literally and figuratively. Ensure your child has a designated space for themselves to enjoy what they like, toys, games, reading etc. Most of these spaces will be in their bedroom, but if your child prefers another spot in your home, consider setting time aside every day for them to spend in their own space, doing something they enjoy or are interested in that isn’t work or therapy related.
We also recommend giving your child space by just allowing them to be alone for a designated time in their day. If this is something they want or thrive with, they are more likely to learn how to relax in a healthy way while also practicing being independent.
3. Keep some preferred foods on-hand.
While we absolutely recommend diversifying your child’s plate to ensure they are receiving the proper nutrition, we also recommend keeping some of those foods you know they prefer on-hand. Just having something like that available in the house can help your child feel more comfortable with their home and the choices available to them. If it happens to be something that isn’t all that healthy, be sure to have a talk with your child about how important nutrition and food is for their wellbeing, explaining it to the best of your (and their) ability.
4. Find the smells, lights and sounds that bother your child
Cleaning supplies and other household items like candles or air fresheners can be a source of a bothersome smell. Luckily, there are odorless options available that will help reduce the unwanted smells. If your other children want to listen to music or play a game whose noise you know will bother your child on the spectrum, ask them to use headphones. If there are lights that are too bright, get a dimmer or designate your child’s personal space in an area where the lighting is less harsh. Picking out these triggers will help you make more informed decisions as you maintain your home, guaranteeing a comfortable experience for everyone.
5. Keep a close eye on what continues to stress your child in the home.
If you’ve started to implement the above but still notice your child becoming overwhelmed or triggered by something, take note of the context as each situation comes up. Who or what was involved and where in your home did it occur. Answering these will bring you to the why, and knowing why the stress or tantrum happens will equip you to avoid it and remedy it in the future.
The process is ongoing and ever changing, don’t be afraid to mix things up to find what works best for you and your family!