If you have a child with autism, you know how overwhelming some sensory experiences can be for them. And this makes common everyday activities like using the bathroom challenging and uncomfortable for them. And the last thing you want is for your child to be hesitant or unable to easily use the bathroom at home. With the help of a sensory-friendly design, you can create a safe and comfortable space for your autistic child to use the bathroom without feeling overwhelmed. Here are some of the best ideas for an autistic child.
- Provide soft lighting
An autistic child needs a bathroom with soft lighting, as this helps create a calming environment that doesn’t overstimulate. Bright lights, for example, can be overwhelming and uncomfortable and make the bathroom space very uncomfortable. Consider using options like colored bulbs, night lights, and dimmer switches to create a soothing atmosphere. Also, ensure that you opt for a light choice that allows you to control the brightness. You can also find creative ways to allow more natural light into the bathroom, so keep this in mind. For example, glass bathrooms can allow for natural light to come in, which can have a calming effect on some children with autism. And speaking of glass, the next point is also important.
- Incorporate glass into the design
While the sound of shattering glass can be overbearing for over-sensitive and autistic children, they have more benefits when making a sensory-friendly bathroom space. First, a glass bathroom creates a clear visual structure, allowing your little one to see and understand their surroundings. Clear glasses can also make the bathroom space less confined, eliminating any overwhelming sense that comes with enclosed spaces. And this allows for better sensory regulation. A glass bathroom can also provide a helpful solution for parents to monitor their children outside the bathroom. You can work with companies like South Coast Glass to find creative ways to add glass to your bathroom.
- Add some visual cues to the bathroom design
Various studies have shown how important visual aids are to autistic children. Consider adding some visual cues as a way of helping your child understand the sequence of steps involved in using the bathroom. Doing this can be particularly helpful if your child learns to use the bathroom unaided or unsupervised. Try using pictures or symbols (or a combination of both) to explain the steps involved in bathing, using the toilet, or washing hands. You can place these cues on the glass bathroom walls, mirror, or any other visible location in the bathroom to remind your child to follow the steps whenever they’re using the bathroom without supervision.
- Opt for a detached and adjustable showerhead
Some autistic may struggle with shower heads that hang above them, especially when they offer no control over the water pressure. A detachable shower head is much easier to wash, as it can be operated in handheld mode rather than overheard, pouring water from above. A handheld showerhead is also easier for a child who struggles with balance or motor skills. Using the showerhead in handheld mode allows them to shower while seated.
- Ensure that your flooring design is soft and cushioned
Hard flooring surfaces like tiled bathroom floors are slippery and can enhance sounds and echoes. The slipperiness can easily lead to accidents, while sounds and echoes can cause overstimulation. If that’s not bad enough, these flooring surfaces are usually cold and harsh on the feet. You can consider solutions like vinyl click flooring made from soft cushion material, designed to be soft and soothing under the feet.
Because such flooring options are also quiet as they absorb sound, ensuring that the splatter of water in the bathroom will not affect your child. And speaking of sound, installing acoustic panels to absorb overbearing sound and reduce echoing is a good idea. You can also use non-slip tiles or non-slip mats to provide a stable surface and prevent slips and falls, so feel free to consider this.
- Design the bathroom with sensory items
Weighted items, fidget toys, bath toys, textured bath mats, or scented soaps (for aromatherapy) are some sensory items that can create a comfortable bathroom space for your child. They can provide a calming effect by reducing anxiety caused by sensory overload, making the bathroom experience less stressful. You can also consider adding a few of your child’s favorite toys to the bathroom to add an element of familiarity, so keep this in mind.
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