Gateway Therapies
Brisbane occupational therapy, speech therapy, autism therapies and NDIS services for all ages

Get Help With Autism and NDIS Services Brisbane

Featuring articles from our principal Occupational Therapist, Dr Nicole Grant, members of the therapy team, and guest posts from members of our community.  

Pre-Prep Screening at Gateway Therapies

The Importance of Pre-Prep Screens

 Preparing your child for Prep can be an exciting, yet overwhelming time for parents of Pre-Prep children.  At Gateway Therapies, we’ve heard the concerns and are now providing Occupational Therapy Pre-Prep Screens.

The first five years of a child’s life are critical for brain and nervous system development.  During their younger years, children learn and develop new skills at an incredible rate.  However, it is very important for a child to develop their foundation skills in their early years in order for further skill development to occur effectively when they reach school.

 Often times, parents only discover that their child is struggling when they are already falling behind.  With early childhood screening, an Occupational Therapist can assess your child to ensure they have met all their developmental milestones and foundational learning skills prior to transitioning to Prep to decrease the risk of falling behind and having a negative learning experience.

 Ensuring that the foundation skills for learning are developed sets a strong platform for positive future learning experiences, builds confidence and self-esteem, and sets the foundation for a successful transition to primary school.  The months leading up to your child transitioning to primary school can be an anxious time for parents.  With Pre-Prep screening, you can have peace of mind knowing your child is ready for primary school, or, you will have detected challenges early and can access therapies to set your child up for the most successful school experience. 

 If you are seeking support and clarity, contact us today and an Occupational Therapist can come to your child’s early learning centre to screen your child, and provide a summary report to give your child the best chance at being a successful school learner.

 

<Thanks to Gateway Therapies’ Occupational Therapist, Kimberlee Drummond for contributing this article>

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Nicole Grant
6 Tips for Making a Comfortable Bedroom for Children with Autism

A Guest Post by:

Lillian Brooks

lillian@learningdisabilities.info

LearningDisabilities.info was created to offer information and understanding to parents of children with learning disabilities, as well as adults who are in need of continued support to succeed.

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 Light, noise, and other kinds of sensory activity are often more intense for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Sensory sensitivity, which many children with ASD experience, means that various stimuli in their environments can cause discomfort, pain, and irritation. As a parent, you want to do what you can to mitigate these effects, and your child’s bedroom should be the first place in your home that receives attention. With that in mind, here are six tips for making a comfortable and safe bedroom for children with ASD.

 Declutter

 The first part of designing your child’s bedroom will be to declutter it. If you’re like most parents, you’re no stranger to toys and games being scattered around your home, and your child’s bedroom is probably no exception. It’s important to bring some order to the room in which your child will begin and end each day. If you seem to have too many items and too little space, look into attractive storage solutions (e.g., bins, stackable drawers, baskets) and label them.

 

Rearrange

 After decluttering, consider the arrangement of the room. It’s important that it accommodates sleeping, playing, and learning. One of the best layouts for these purposes is to place all the furniture along the walls so that there is space in the middle of the room for your child to play or do homework. If the room is large enough, you can even create zones for different activities.

 

Move It Outside

 While you’re making changes in your child’s bedroom, remember that you don’t have to fit all of their activities inside. It’s good for children to play outside, and for a child with ASD, the backyard is a great place for them to have fun. No one wants to be cooped up all the time, and the extra space of a backyard benefits their development allows them to explore. There are many sensory play activities for the outdoors, such as swinging, toy car washing, nature observation, and drawing with washable paint or chalk.

 

Change the Lights

 Light is one of the elements that can most affect children with ASD. For many children with ASD, fluorescent lighting is bothersome and triggering. This is because they can sense the minute flickering and low-buzz of fluorescent light bulbs, which doesn’t affect people without autism. For your child’s bedroom, consider putting in more consistent lighting, such as full spectrum and/or incandescent light bulbs. Furthermore, adding blackout shades can soften the outdoor light that shines through the bedroom.

 

Choose Soothing Colours

 The colours of the bedroom walls also play a role in creating a productive and restful atmosphere. Neutral tones like beige and grey are hard to beat because they are the least distracting and can accommodate other design elements. If you want something that inspires productivity but is still calming and relaxing, consider pale shades of blue, green, pink, or purple.

 

Block the Noise

 Along with lighting and colours, it’s important to take steps to minimize outdoor noise in your child’s bedroom. A passing train, barking dogs in the neighbourhood, or foot traffic in a nearby hallway can hinder their focus, disrupt their sleep, or severely agitate them. Here are a few additions that can mute extraneous noise in your child’s bedroom.

 

●      High-piled carpet

●      Rugs

●      Acoustic wall paneling

●      Thick curtains

 

If your child has ASD, it’s important to make sure their bedroom is a productive and restful environment. Start by decluttering and organising, consider changing the layout of the room, and remember that you can designate many activities for the backyard. Also, address any lighting, colour, and noise issues to accommodate your child’s sensory sensitivity. A comfortable and safe bedroom is critical for children with ASD, and taking steps can help you get there.

 

Photo Credit: Pexels

 

Task cards for assignment completion

A common challenge for older primary and high school age children is getting assignments submitted on time. Assignments can seem daunting for kids who struggle with time management and organisation skills. Often getting started is the hardest part. These Foldable Task Cards are a great strategy to help with planning assignments, and to help kids keep on track. Here’s how!

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SET UP

Step 1.

Fold a coloured piece of A4 card in half lengthways, and cut along the line.

Step 2.

Fold the long strip in half, and then each half into thirds. You should end up with 6 sections in total.

Step 3.

In the 1st section, write the heading - ‘Warm Up’. In the last section, write the heading ‘Reward’.

Step 4.

Draw a line across the entire bottom of the strip using a ruler.

Now it’s time to enter the details!

TASK PLANNING

The Warm Up

In the first section, we write a quick activity that is fun, but helps the child to get ready for desk work. Ideal warm up tasks will get hands ready for writing/ typing and brains ready for thinking. Students should have a say in their preference for warm up activities as this task needs to be very motivating. Ideas include:

  • Colouring mandalas

  • Crossword or word search

  • Advanced dot to dots

  • Type an email to a friend

  • Read a few pages of a book

The warm up task needs to be done at the desk or workspace and be quick to prepare and pack up.

The Reward

Everyone is motivated by something. The idea of the reward is to provide motivation for task completion and is an incentive to get the assignment started. Rewards can be longer, and can be completely unrelated to the project being completed. The Reward can be desk based, or outside, or can be a treat, food item, or game. Whatever is highly motivating for your child.

Timing

The bottom of the strip is used to set time limits for each stage of the task. It’s important that the student is realistic about how much time is required for each step. The time serves as as reminder to keep students on task and moving along. This is particularly helpful for kids who get stuck on one task.

TIP: If the assignment is a big one, tape two strips side by side so that there is 12 sections in total. This will give you 10 spaces for steps. Longer strips can still be folded.

Breaking Down and Writing the Steps

It is important that your child is involved in the process at all stages of making these task cards, however at this stage it is particularly crucial. This is where you read the project, homework or assignment requirements and decide a) what each step is, and b) how long each step will realistically take.

This process is also a learning opportunity as the student is required to work out the key pieces of information and what is actually required from them to be successful. Each section can have a few smaller steps, but the order of steps should make sense. Once again, it is important to be realistic about what can be achieved in the time you are allocating. Editing and checking work can be time consuming, but it is important to allow time for this.

Why this works

  • Coloured card is more eye catching, and creating a different shape to the usual A4 sized work sheets is visually different, and therefore a bit more interesting for the student.

  • Creating the task cards is a kinaesthetic activity, activating lots of different parts of the brain

  • The shape of the strip provides a prompt for the student to work systematically through each step towards the end point - the Reward

  • The strip is 3 dimensional when folded and provides a nice tactile experience for the student.

  • It can be folded in a number of different ways so that only 1 task is present at a time, which is important for those kids who get overwhelmed by too much information.

  • The cards are highly portable, and can be inserted into pockets on a wall calendar, or used as a bookmark.

Why don’t you try this for next term’s assignment tasks? If your child is struggling with getting work started or completed on time, an Occupational Therapist can assist.

Using visual aids to improve behaviour

Just like learning to eat solid foods, crawl, and hold a spoon, language and communication skills also take time to develop. For children with developmental delays and neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, it can take even longer. A child’s poor ability to communicate and express wants and needs often goes hand in hand with tantrums and other challenging behaviours. It takes time to develop the full range of communication skills, and there are many!

Communication is a two-way exchange of information between two or more people. Good communication relies on all people involved having the ability to get a point across, receive and understand the message, interpret body language, and respond in a timely manner. Communication breaks down when there is an inability for either the communicator or the receiver to understand and/ or respond to what is being communicated.

For children with poor verbal communication skills, life can be frustrating. They can have lots of difficulty having their wants and needs met because they cannot find the words they need, or may have the words, but not the ability to produce the speech sounds. They might have an auditory delay which means they miss important information, or find it hard to keep up with conversation. They may lack the vocabulary to talk about the things they are interested in. They may not have the ability to understand directions, or interpret tone, or even pin point where auditory information is coming from. Body language and facial expressions can be confusing. Add to the mix a bit of distraction, classroom noise, and high anxiety, and communication becomes even more challenging.

It is very common to see challenging behaviours from kids who have poor communication skills. We can help to minimise the severity and frequency of these behaviours by making communication easier. By addressing the underlying cause of the behaviour, we are more likely to see the behaviour disappear.

Visual aids are one way we can help to improve behaviour by addressing the underlying issue, which is frustration caused by communication difficulties. Visual aids introduce an alternative, and sometimes easier, form of communication. Some kids with auditory delays find it easier to communicate using visual input, and are more motivated by images, pictures, and other graphics.

Visual aids can be things like schedules, checklists, images, pictures, PECS, and charts, as well as stories, cartoons and other graphics that show the child what is expected and/ or gives the child a choice of things from which to choose. Visual aids can show the order of events to eliminate anxiety caused by uncertainty. Visual aids can give kids the words they need to show you what they are thinking. Charts and graphs can provide a visual reminder of progress, which can be very motivating for some kids, especially those with autism.

The keys points on this topic are:

  • if you are having difficulty with a challenging behaviour, anger, aggression, or other concern, think about whether your child is having difficulty communicating something to you

  • Help your child to communicate by introducing visual aids

  • Talk to your speech therapist or occupational therapist to find out the best way to introduce visual aids

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Homework Organisation - Tips from an OT

At the beginning of a brand new school year, it’s a good idea to set aside some time to think about how homework will be tackled. Homework can be a source of anxiety for many of our kids. it can be perceived as boring and pointless. It can also cut into valuable free time after school, so no wonder the mere mention of homework can be a source of angst for both child and parent alike. Homework can be a POSITIVE EXPERIENCE however, with a bit of advance prep.

Here’s a few small ways you can prepare for a year of fuss free (or at least tolerable!) homework:

1. Set a realistic and age appropriate homework schedule. For young kids, aim for 10 minutes per day of good quality work rather than pushing for 30 minutes of laboured work. Kids have short attention spans in the early years. 

Also, pick your timing. Just before bed is unlikely to be the time your child will be at their best. 

2. Have the right tools for the job. Have a dedicated pencil case with everything you need so you are ready to go. This pencil case is for homework only and can be filled with the fun, sparkly stationery that is used only for special occasions, like homework.

3. Have a clear, dedicated workspace. This can be the table, a desk or kitchen bench. A space should be clear at all times, so that when it’s homework time there are no excuses for delaying getting started. 

4. Make sure your child can sit comfortably. Check your child can reach the floor or a footrest. Swinging feet are distracting and make for an ineffective seated posture. Your child’s ability to concentrate will increase if they are seated comfortably.

5. Be prepared to offer gentle praise and encouragement, not pressure. Any effort should be acknowledged. Bribing, threatening and demanding work be done will only fuel resentment. 

7. Delegate subject areas to parents depending on strengths. Maths not your strong point? Handover aspects of homework supervision to your other half if they have an aptitude for a subject area you're not great at. Forget about pride. Work out how each parent can best support their child's learning. It is both parents’ job to support their child’s educational development.

8. Have a dedicated in-tray for new work. Keep homework in a prominent place so that you are reminded to do a bit each day. Include homework in YOUR schedule and add it to your diary to give it significance. 

9. Be prepared to talk to the teacher. If you are concerned about the type or amount of homework your child is receiving, talk to their teacher. They might have some tips or make changes based on the collective feedback of the group. Also be prepared to say no to homework if your child’s homework load is simply too much for them.

If your child is resistant to homework ongoing, consider consulting with an occupational therapist. We can assist with determining the reason for homework refusal, such as biomechanical challenges (poor pencil grasp, poor posture), poor understanding of concepts, reduced attention/ concentration, fatigue, anxiety and more. Call us today on 3398 9367 to discuss further.


Meltdown vs Tantrum: How can you tell the difference?

What is the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown?

 Do you know the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown? You might be thinking – Of course I do! Only kids with autism have meltdowns. Every other child screaming in the shopping centre is just throwing a tantrum, right?

Wrong.

 Children with autism are certainly more prone to meltdowns, however every child (and adult for that matter) can experience a meltdown if the conditions are right (or wrong!).

 Whether your child has an autism diagnosis or not, it’s still important to know the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown, so you know how to respond accordingly.

 A meltdown is usually caused by a build up of sensory stimulus that becomes so overwhelming, it is hard to stay calm and in control. Children with autism and sensory processing disorders often become overwhelmed by sensory input (e.g. bright lights, loud noises, crowds etc.) and will experience a meltdown when they are no longer able to tolerate the amount or type of input they are receiving. A meltdown can also occur when emotions and feelings become overwhelming. This can happen to anyone, although it is more likely to occur if you have autism or other neurodevelopmental disorder. If your child experiences frequent meltdowns, without any apparent cause, it’s best to consult with your child’s general practitioner or paediatrician.

 A tantrum is usually caused by a child not getting what they want, being asked to do something they don’t want to do, or having something done to them that they are not happy about. Younger kids that struggle to find the words to express how they feel are more likely to have a tantrum. It’s a very effective (although undesirable) way to let others know something is not right in your world!

 An essential difference between a meltdown and a tantrum is that a meltdown is quite uncontrollable. There is little a person can do when in full meltdown mode, so the strategies to be used are generally around preventing them where possible, and providing a safe place to desensitise when the need arises.

 A tantrum however, is deliberate and somewhat controlled. A child will very rarely throw a tantrum if an audience is not present, whereas a meltdown will occur regardless of whether or not there are others around.

 How can a tantrum be stopped?

 A tantrum can be managed in a few different ways:

a)    By ignoring your child until they realise that you are not giving in,

b)    Giving them what they want (although not recommended!), or

c)    Redirecting/ distracting them.

 a) and c) are the better choices. It’s always important to let a child know that you have heard and understood them, but that a tantrum is not the way to express their wants and needs. As children learn to find the words they need, and self-manage their anger, frustration, and other challenging emotions, they should tantrum less. Parenting young children requires lots of patience!

 Detecting a meltdown

 It’s not always easy to anticipate a meltdown, but your child will have specific triggers and usually show signs when they are reaching their point of tolerance. Some children with autism will exhibit stimming (stimulatory) behaviours to try to over-ride or screen out the offending stimulus. This may look like rocking, flapping hands, humming or singing, covering ears, pinching or other self-harm, and other repetitive behaviours. These are not usually signs of an impending tantrum. Stimming does not always mean a meltdown is looming, so you will need to learn to read your child.

 How can I manage a meltdown?

 A child experiencing a meltdown will generally not benefit from the same behaviour management strategies that you use with tantrums. They instead need to be given time to recover from whatever sensory stimulus has affected them.

 If you have a child that is prone to meltdowns, try and work out their triggers. Over time you may learn to anticipate a meltdown and avoid it before it happens. Here are some things that may help your child to avoid a meltdown:

Bright lights and screen glare?

Try Sunglasses, Cap, Screen filters, Dim brightness on screens, monitors and devices, Retreat to a darkened room

 Too much noise?

Try listening to music through ear phones, ear plugs, pull down beanie over ears, wear a head band that covers the ears, retreat to a quiet place

 Too many people and lack of personal space?

Try having a tent or tepee nearby to hide in, spend time in a darkened room, wear Emotichew to let people know you’re not ready to talk, wear a hoodie to create a physical barrier

 Too much energy and excitement/ over stimulated?

Try jumping on a trampoline, heavy work activities like hanging off monkey bars or wall push-ups, chewy jewellery to chew on.

 If you have any concerns about your child’s behaviour, an Occupational Therapist can help. Call us today on 3398 9367 to discuss how the Gateway Therapies team can help.

(Article originally published in Families Mag)

Learning Disabilities or Learning Differences - How to Bring out Your Child's Inner Artist

A guest post by
Lillian Brooks

lillian@learningdisabilities.info

LearningDisabilities.info was created to offer information and understanding to parents of children with learning disabilities, as well as adults who are in need of continued support to succeed.



According to Understood, around one in five children have learning and attention difficulties. However, it might be better to think of learning difficulties as learning differences -- children who struggle with standard subjects and teaching methods might thrive in other fields, such as the arts. If you think this might be true of your child, here are a few ways to get them started.

 

Performing Arts 

Many children labelled as “disruptive” in the classroom, are simply expressing their excess energy and desire for attention. Children like this often shine onstage! Those who are gifted in traditional classroom settings often falter in the performing arts, perhaps because they are too “in their heads.” Many children with learning differences find it easier to get in touch with their bodies and express themselves without holding back -- which is of course crucial to moving performances in dance or theater. Some performing arts classes, such as improv classes, allow children learn to express themselves in a safe environment, helping them to improve their social and emotional intelligence.

 

Visual Arts

Many children with learning differences struggle with language and literacy -- these kids may find the visual arts a better fit to how their mind works. Interestingly, children who do take up the arts often find that their language skills improve -- psychologists aren’t sure why but they think it helps them to process and make sense of the language they have already learned. Artforms like drawing and painting are ideal because they are easy and cheap to get started in -- all you need is a painting kit and a space they can play without worrying about the mess.

 

If your child is more tactile, textile arts would be a good choice. With textile arts, the texture and shape of the piece is just as important as it’s visual appearance, which gives your child an extra dimension in which to express themselves. They’ll be able to create tapestries, clothes, or make modifications to existing clothes, and the end result is a tangible, physical creation. At the same time, they will develop their motor skills, or learn to use machinery if they are old enough to try sewing machines. Check out these sewing resources from HomeAdvisor.

 

Music

Is your child musically minded? If so then music classes might be a good fit for them. In a similar way as the visual arts, music gives a voice to children who struggle to express their feelings in words, and studies show music is particularly effective for children with attentional difficulties. However, music is not as easily accessible as the visual arts, it also takes some time and dedication to build the level of skill need to play freely. However, some children pick this up quickly, while others enjoy the challenge -- you could start by taking your child to a group music session where they can play a small part in a group production, and expand their role as their skill improves.

 

Art Therapy

It’s no secret that children with learning differences face difficulties that other children don’t. On top of that, they may find it difficult to express themselves, and talk about what they are experiencing. This is where art therapy comes in -- and it’s very different to a standard art class. In art therapy, children are encouraged to express themselves through art -- to paint a picture about how they feel, for instance. This helps them get in touch with their emotions, and express them in ways that they may struggle to do with language. However, they are not developing artistic skills, nor are they judged on the quality of the art they produce. The goal is pure expression. However, if they enjoy it, there’s no reason you can’t take them to traditional art classes also, or give them materials to use at home.

 

A problem that children with learning disabilities will face throughout their lives, is being defined by their challenges. The arts provide a buffer against this, by teaching them about their gifts. Which art form do you think is more suitable for your child?

 

Photo: Pixabay

Improving Fine Motor Skills and Food Independence through Yumbox

GRACE HOLGATE

Two-year-old Clara enjoying her delicious lunch from her Yumbox lunchbox.  Photo: Grace Holgate

Two-year-old Clara enjoying her delicious lunch from her Yumbox lunchbox. Photo: Grace Holgate

There is probably nothing more challenging than finding the right lunchbox for your child. While your child’s lunchbox priorities might surround having Paw Patrol on the front and having the ‘coolest’ box in the playground, we know that parents want their child’s lunchbox to be sturdy, leakproof, have a working lock or zipper and of course, have the capacity to fit a variety of healthy snacks.

We know that having the right lunchbox is not only vital to keeping your child’s food fresh but having a lunchbox that also assists children towards food independence is an incredible feature.

During our research to find the perfect lunchbox, we came across some pretty nifty products, but none of them compared to the likes of Yumbox.

Yumbox is a kid-friendly, bento-style lunch container that is brilliantly designed for kids (and adults!). Yumbox is made of high quality, super durable and BPA-free food-safe materials, so you know that you’re buying a safe and reliable product.

Amongst parents and therapists, Yumboxes are a bit of a cult favourite- and for good reason! The bento style divides meals into sections and encourages a more holistic approach to eating. Yumboxes come in a range of different sizes and configurations, meaning they’re suited to a range of appetites and preferences. This is excellent for those picky eaters and the kiddies that don’t like different food touching each other!

But why is food independence and fine motor skills important? We spoke to our incredible Occupational Therapist, Steph Holgate to find out more.

“Fine motor skills are really important to be able to hold and manipulate utensils. When you’re a young child, you use your fingers a lot to hold food and feed yourself,” Steph said.

“As kids transition as they go through staying at home, going to kindergarten and then to school, they are not always going to have parental guidance to help them eat. In a school environment, it is very likely that a child will not have help at meal times, so it's really important that they are able to have food independence to feed themselves and get the nutrition that they need”.

Clara having her yummy morning tea and using her 'Drink in the Box'.  Photo: Grace Holgate

Clara having her yummy morning tea and using her 'Drink in the Box'. Photo: Grace Holgate

We also spoke to Founder of Mini Hippo Imports, Megan Mallen to get an insight on why Yumboxes are lunch and snack time essentials.

“The six-compartment Tapas and Original Yumboxes are better for kids who prefer to pick and choose their every bite, and the smaller sections encourage the development of fine motor skills when eating. Dry cereal, cut-up fruit, crackers and cheese and small baked goods - think muffins, quiches, pastries - are ideal for these Yumbox styles, and encourage the use of fine motor skills to pick up and eat food with their fingers,” Megan said.

“Alternatively, the four-compartment Panino and the five-compartment Tapas styles are better suited to kids who prefer larger meals, like sandwiches, wraps, sushi or pasta, as they feature one big section surrounded by three or four smaller ones. But even when given larger foods in their Yumboxes, kids are encouraged to use their fingers or a fork or spoon to eat their lunch, allowing them to practice those valuable fine motor skills they’ll need as they grow up,” Megan said.

“But no matter which style you go for, there are certain features which make the Yumbox ideal for kids who need to improve their fine motor skills, particularly when eating.  Even the clasp, which easily clicks open and close, but ensures the Yumbox is totally leak-proof by pressing the silicone lining inside the lid onto the food tray's compartments, allows kids to practice their fine motor skills every time they open up their Yumbox and see what’s inside!”

Yumbox provides a range of lunchbox styles that can cater to all of your child’s lunchtime needs! Children can improve their fine motor skills and build their food independence as they eat their delicious and nutritious snacks.

If you’re looking for the ultimate lunchbox that goes beyond storing food, then Yumbox is a must for your family!

Check out the Yumbox website for their great range of products! www.minihippo.com.au 

Gateway Therapies Professional Development Day

Here at Gateway Therapies, we strive to learn consistently and develop new skills to ensure we are informed and prepared for every client. To achieve this, we regularly have group meetings and take part in professional development days to not only gain innovative skills, but it also gives our team the opportunity to share their knowledge, prepare competent presenting skills and enables us to come together and work as a coherent and professional team.

See the video below for a snippet of our professional development day!

Grace Holgate
Tips for creating a safe and functional bathroom for the blind or visually impaired

Guest Post: Ashley (Disabled Parents)

While the bathroom is one of the smaller rooms in the house, it can still present big hazards and safety issues for people who are blind or visually impaired if it is not set up correctly. Taking special care to follow safety tips can create a safe and warm environment.

Shared bathrooms mean more hazards

Unless you live in a house with several bathrooms, more than likely, the bathroom is a shared space. This means there may be family members leaving towels, puddles of water, bath toys, or other items on the floor that can become tripping hazards. When living with a visually impaired family member, it is very important for the rest of the family to become more aware of dangers and to regularly check the floors for items that could be tripped on.

Open floor plans give freedom of movement

A bathroom with wide walkways is best for someone with a visual impairment. This includes keeping walkways free of things like laundry hampers, shelves, or even garbage cans. In spaces that are narrow, something as simple as an open drawer can become a hazard for someone with limited or no vision.

Replace shower curtains with shower doors

Replacing a shower curtain with a solid shower door can cut down on accidents in the bathroom. It is very easy for someone with a visual impairment to get caught up in a shower curtain and fall. Using a door that the person can feel is open or closed reduces the chances of tripping.

Colours matter

When choosing colours for things like towels, soap dishes, toothbrush holders, and other bathroom items, you should select colours that can be easily identified. Avoid towels that are light in color or too close to the shades of the floor, counters, or walls. This will help people who are visually impaired locate towel racks and watch for a towel accidentally left on the floor. Keep color choice in mind for things like the shower doors as well, so there is a well-defined difference between the walls, bathtub, and door.

 

Another place where color can help is defining the top of the tub if you have a bathtub/shower combo one needs to step into. Something as simple as a bright stripe of wide waterproof tape can alert users to the top of the tub so they can step over it.

Install bright lights and motion sensors

Unless someone is light sensitive, the bathroom should be well lit. Bright lights that fill the entire room with light will help people who are visually impaired avoid hazards. You can also consider installing lights that are triggered by motion to keep all members of the family safe on midnight bathroom runs.

Add user-friendly water fixtures and labels

Using a system of two different handles for hot and cold water can be both positive and negative. While it may be easy at first for the visually impaired to mix up the two dials, it does eventually offer more control. Whether you have one handle or two, clearly labelling or marking hot versus cold is important. If the user can see colors, this can be done with red and blue labels. If the user can’t see colors, braille can be used.

Anchor the bath mats and rugs

Many people use small bath rugs to keep their tile or vinyl floors from becoming slippery, but the rugs themselves can be a hazard if they are not anchored to the floor. The same thing can be said about mats used in the shower. Things like non-stick decals for the bathtub are much safer than suction-cupped bath mats that can slip and move around. Furthermore, adding a bench or chair to a tub or shower reduces the chances for falls, especially if the surrounding surface is slip-proof so that sitting down on and getting up from the seat are hazard-free.

Install soap and shampoo dispensers

Instead of fumbling with multiple bottles of shampoo and other products in the shower, it may be easier to install a dispenser that can be refilled with products in a predictable order. This clears the clutter of too many bottles in the shower and makes it less likely they’ll get mixed up or dropped.

Add grab bars in shower and near toilet

One of the most important things you can do to make your bathroom safer for a visually impaired family member is to install grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet. Grab bars are very helpful and can prevent falls and injuries. They can help with balance, particularly in a slippery shower. Make sure to place grab bars in spots that are easily accessible.

Bathroom safety is crucial for those who are visually impaired, particularly when the bathroom is shared with other family members. When creating a safe bathroom environment, it’s essential to think about space and color, and you need to consider lighting, water fixtures, bath mats, dispensers, and grab bars as well.

 

Image by MikesPhotos via Pixabay