MAKING YOUR HOME AUTISM FRIENDLY
It is a common expression to say “there’s no place like home” because it is in our nature as a territorial species to regard with utmost value and appreciation a specific place that gives us privacy and a sense of security. We always see to it that our home is filled with only the things that make us feel comfortable and safe, so we become meticulous with the choices presented to us in many aspects of our home living. From picking the perfect furniture and decors to fit the visualized interior design to choosing the type of indoor plants and appliances to compliment the overall aesthetic look of our home, you’ll always make sure that your home’s furnishing is a reflection of your family’s preferences.
But this task becomes more challenging when you have a family member who is diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder, like ASD. People with autism have special needs brought about by their condition, as well as preferences that may prove to be incompatible with your own and other family members, making it quite more difficult to meet all the plans for your indoor look. Although very challenging, it is still possible to come up with a home interior setting that meets all of your family’s preferences, you just have to make specific compromises and adjustments. To give your task more ease, here are the particular contexts that you can help you achieve an autism-friendly home interior.
Create Different Sensory Environments
As a spectrum disorder, autism is characterized by a variety of features which include sensory-related issues. An autistic individual may either be sensory offensive which is manifested by abnormal cravings for sensory output, or sensory hypersensitive which results in distress when they are exposed to sensory stimuli that seem too much for them. One of the ways to make your home autism-friendly is to accommodate your autistic family member’s sensory needs or aversions. You need to determine first on which end of the sensory issue the autistic person falls under before you can make the necessary considerations. Allocate a certain part of your home, preferably a single room, that minimizes or controls the degree of sensory input. This room doesn’t have to be the autistic person’s room, but it should always be accessible for them to manage their sensory issues. You will need to design the room in such a way that sunlight or moonlight can go through because autistic persons prefer natural lighting over artificial ones, especially those who are hypersensitive. You can also install a noise canceling material on the wall, which not only minimizes audio output but also satisfies the sensory craving for touch if the autistic person likes to feel the material. The color theme of the room may either be brightly or softly colored, depending on the nature of your child’s sensory issues. You can also place in there a lot of stuff that are tools in sensory issue management, as you begin to learn more about this topic.
Aside from creating a specific sensory environment for the autistic family member, you should also consider allocating a big space for that room, because autistic people also need to exercise their body movements, and train to improve their spatial awareness and balance.
Designate An Area for Honing Savant Features or Sharpening Interests
It is highly likely that your autistic family member will manifest savant skills or talents that will become life-changing if you provide the much-needed support and encouragement. Most autistic individuals tend to develop highly restricted interests which they may easily become preoccupied with. They can spend the whole day reading books, training some skills, and working on some stuff with a great amount of focus. For this specific matter, it would benefit the autistic person if you allocate a certain are in the house to function as their workspace. That area must reduce clutter and eliminate unnecessary distraction so that the autistic person can put all their attention to their topic of interest. The whole family’s support should not end on providing this room, however. If the autistic person’s interest is obsessive and not beneficial in the long-term, it is the duty of the parent to ensure that they still maintain a healthy diet and proper hygiene while also finding an alternative area of interest to end the obsession.
Facilitate the Learning of Basic Life Skills
It is not always guaranteed that an autistic child who lives under a spacious and well-furnished house will grow up as an independent and highly able adult who can manage their daily needs and functions without supervision. Most of the time, it all comes down to how the family makes specific house arrangements that somehow train their autonomy. To help your autistic family member become more self-reliant and learn basic life skills, a good start would be putting labels or visual aids to things that they need and put them in locations in the house that make them easily accessible to the autistic individual. When they try to make breakfast on their own, you can put the cupboard in an easily reachable area in the house and label the products inside it. Shelves for kitchen utensils such as cup, plate, spoon, and fork must also be organized for an easy going-over and segregation when they are tasked to wash the dishes. Doing the laundry must also be guided by a specific cue, such as color-coded baskets to segregate different types of garments, and a visual aid to set schedule for different laundry work. Even the folding and keeping of washed clothes can be done on their own, through the help of labeled compartments in the closet or cabinet
The family’s role in the development of an autistic individual and the improvement of their condition cannot be undermined. In this context, planning the house interior and making specific arrangements also create a big impact on how well an autistic person can cope up with their condition. Calling an architect or an interior designer and an autism expert in a joint consultation is ideal for creating an autism-friendly home.