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

Posts tagged sensory processing
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

 

Should my child get a diagnosis?

A post from Director, Nicole.....

I often receive requests to assess for delays with development or dysfunction in the areas of sensory processing, fine and gross motor development, attention/ concentration and other areas of function. One of the questions I am frequently asked by parents, particularly when obvious issues become apparent, is - what do you think it is? Many parents are aware of neurodevelopmental disorders like those on the autism spectrum, and I often get asked about ADHD and sensory processing disorder.

I will always refer to a paediatrician for diagnosis, but can assist with the process by providing a report outlining my observations and recommendations.

Parents often feel reassured when they at least have a little more information as a result of an initial assessment, particularly as my focus is always on providing information and strategies to assist - regardless of whether or not a name is given to the challenges identified.

Once specific issues are identified, the treatment options or interventions used tend to be the same, regardless of what the diagnosis is, or will be. The problem here is that without a diagnosis, parents can have limited access to Occupational Therapy services. Government funding is available in Australia for children with special needs via such schemes as Helping Children with Autism and the Enhanced Primary Care Scheme. However, a diagnosis is required. Parents who wish to pursue intervention with a private allied health professional, and do not have a diagnosis, may be able to claim some of the expenses from their private health fund, or self-fund the fees.

Occupational Therapy services are available to the community via community services and more specifically to school age children through the Department of Education and Training. Waiting lists are often lengthy, which can affect access to early intervention services, however it's worth contacting your local department to check.

My concern with seeking a specific diagnosis or giving a name to the difficulties a child is experiencing, is that some children just do not meet all the criteria to be given a diagnosis. This doesn't mean they are any less in need of assistance. Many children can benefit from Occupational Therapy services, to develop skills to help them with their school work, social interaction, and self care. Click on the links or email me for more information.

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