Home is a place we spend a lot of time in, so it is important to ensure that it is a comfortable space. People on the spectrum may be especially sensitive to various stimuli, prefer routines or enjoy spending time in their safe space. Therefore, it is essential to pay attention to their sensory environment, use visual schedules or have a safe space at home.
Stimuli, such as lights and sounds, that may be comfortable for most people, may cause sensory overload for people on the spectrum. Hypersensitivity refers to being more easily stimulated where neurotypicals may not, such as becoming overwhelmed by certain lights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes that results in sensory avoidance. Some examples of avoidance are covering ears to avoid loud noise or disliking certain types of clothing. Soft lighting and textures may help make them feel more comfortable at home. They may also use tools like headphones to block our excessive noise and avoid being overstimulated. It may also be helpful to avoid strong-smelling scents at home.
On the other hand, people with autism who experience hyposensitivity may seek sensory stimulation to get more input from the environment. Some examples of seeking sensory input may be making loud noises or having a constant need to move. It may be beneficial to have a trampoline or balance beam in the room, or have quilts on the wall to soften sounds. Weighted blanket and sensory fidget toys may be advantageous too.
Some people with autism may experience a combination of both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity in different areas.
Many individuals with autism tend to prefer routines due to a need to make sense of what is going on and have a sense of expectancy. It may also seem particularly repetitive if they have narrow interests or stimming behaviours. Routines can be soothing as it establishes order in their life where they may feel anxious with changes. Therefore, visual schedules are useful in easing them into transitions.
A visual schedule is an image-based tool that informs individuals with autism of the sequence and type of activities to expect and complete for the day. It could be a picture board or calendar.
To create an effective visual schedule, one should first identify the task or routine to work on and break it down into smaller steps so that it is easy to follow. Initially, the length of schedule could be short and gradually extended when the child becomes familiar with how the schedule works.
Everyone seeks a place where they can be comfortable. Children with autism are no exception. It is beneficial to ensure that they have a special place at home to enjoy their favourite toys and activities. They may also use the space to enjoy some alone time to learn how to unwind in a healthy way and regulate their emotions. Toys or objects may be kept in the safe space to help calm them down or provide the sensory input they require. For children with autism who struggle with sleeping at night, a safe space may also help provide a low stimulation environment to settle them down before bed.
It may be helpful to ensure that the windows are strengthened to prevent them from being broken during a meltdown. Soft carpets and softened edges could be included to provide more protection.
All in all, by creating an autism-friendly environment in the house, it helps children with autism to feel a sense of security and comfort. When they are in a comfortable environment, they get less stressed and have fewer meltdowns. They may also be in a more receptive state to learn new skills.
Written by: Guat Shin
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