When living with a child with autism, it is imperative to create a safe, functional, and comfortable home. The environment in which an autistic child grows can significantly impact their development, social connections, and lifestyle.
Autistic individuals can be sensitive to different sounds, colors, and light, among other stimuli. Understanding their symptoms is very important when you want to help them and make them feel comfortable.
If you are looking to create a conducive environment for the optimal growth of your child, you will want to pay attention to the following:
You Child’s Sensory Environment
Many people can easily absorb vital information while disregarding less important details. However, individuals with autism, especially children, experience challenges processing the information they receive through their senses and determining its significance. Also, your child may struggle with movement, coordination, and balance.
Simply put, they may become overstimulated by certain sensations. For example, you may see your child covering their ears when it is too noisy or becoming a picky eater when they are over-sensitive to taste or smell. On the other hand, autistic children can also be under-sensitive. With that said, you need to customize your child’s environment according to their needs:
Ensure that you know which colors attract your child the most. If your child prefers bright colors, they may be inclined to ignore people and focus on items with such hues. Try to get rid of objects with bright shades, and replace them with calmer colored items. You may also want to wear bright-colored clothes if you want to capture your kid’s attention.
Light is a key environmental factor that could affect your child’s sensory stimulation. For instance, many autistic individuals can become exhausted quickly, have shorter attention spans, or experience diminished eye contact in fluorescent lighting. If that is the case for your child, consider investing in incandescent lights. Also, Consider trying different lighting and observe how your child responds to the new environment each time.
If there is one thing that touches your child’s raw nerve, it is noise. This can be especially true if your child is oversensitive to sound. People conversing with high-pitched voices, background music, traffic noises, tires screeching, and even whirring wind are sounds that you usually ignore but tend to attract your child’s attention the most. These background sounds will render your child unable to focus on more important things, become less interactive, and seem disinterested in what you are doing or telling them.
Some children will appear disturbed, cry often, and struggle to cover their ears when they detect noise in their immediate environment. As such, you need to find ways of minimizing the background noises or avoid areas with these sounds altogether.
- The first step in helping your child when it comes to controlling the noises to which they are exposed is knowing which sounds irritate them or capture their attention and thus interrupting their other activities
- If you cannot eliminate the sounds, try as much as possible to integrate the sounds into their play or chores
- Did you know that your laughter can over-stimulate your child? If your kid is sensitive to this sound, avoid laughing loudly and tell your friends to follow suit. With time, you may start laughing out loud gradually until they get used to it. Ensure that you assess how your kid responds to these sounds; you might have to do away with the loud laughter if the child continues to be irritated.
The Feel of Certain Fabrics and Objects
One sense you cannot ignore is touch, and there is no exception with your child. In fact, kids get over-excited when they touch certain things. On top of the list is textile, the fabric comprising the clothes that your household members wear. For example, your child may enjoy hard textiles and dislike the soft ones, or vice versa.
Of course, you have stayed with your child long enough to know which items over-stimulate them when they encounter them. You might have to make many changes in your home, depending on your child’s feelings. This also applies to their playtime. If your child enjoys touching soft things, get rid of all the toys that feel hard on the fingers. Also, you can swing the child in a soft cloth or play peek-a-boo and other games around home equipment with soft furnishings.
The Surrounding Air
With the growing research linking autism to air pollution, it is crucial to run an air purifier and dehumidifier in your home to ensure that your child breathes the freshest of air. For example, an air purifier that features a HEPA filter can help eliminate your indoor air of dust particles, pollen, chemicals, and a dehumidifier, helping remove unwanted moisture.
Dehumidifiers make your home unhabitable to airborne pollutants, such as mold spores and dust mites, by extracting excess moisture. Airborne contaminants can over-stimulate your child’s senses and worsen autism. A good dehumidifier and air purifier with a great air-filtration system and low noise level will undoubtedly make a massive difference for children with autism and individuals with severe allergies or asthma.
The Ambience in Your Home
In addition to the sensory environment, attitude plays an integral role in the proper management of autism in children. Kids tend to react intensely to the moods and attitudes of the people surrounding them. Therefore, you need to ask yourself several questions about your home: How happy or sad are your home’s occupants. Are the people that keep your kids’ company moody or tense?
Subsequently, proceed to make your home a happy place for your child. Forgive yourself for previously thinking that your child cannot define your attitude just because they have difficulties with individual senses. If you are furious, the child is likely to react the same way. They might not talk to you for a while; they could even turn their back on you or even leave the room!
- In essence, always wear a smile and let your child with autism know that you are happy and love them to the moon
- Find good ways to punish them when they make mistakes
- Your other family members and guests should also be aware that there is a child with autism at home; let them create a happy and comfortable environment for your kid
- Consider hanging a notice near your door instructing anyone coming in to be friendly
- Play happy songs and watch comedy-themed movies and TV programs
- When you feel sad and think it might be a while before you regain your joy, have someone else take care of your child and stay out of sight. You can use this time to visit a counselor, who might also give you invaluable tips on making your home happy and comfortable.
People with autism often have a hard time interpreting sensory input, leading to stress, confusion, and withdrawal. If you live with an autistic child, you will want to make your home more accommodating to them by implementing the above-suggested changes.
Such changes may include the use of natural lighting and calming colors, eliminating disturbing sounds, and riding your indoor environment of airborne contaminants. Most importantly, remember to be happy in the presence of your autistic child and create a cheerful ambiance around them.