At Aspace we are passionate about interior design and creating spaces that resonate with our children’s personalities.
To support National Autism Awareness Month, we got in touch with Ann from Rainbows Are Too Beautiful – a blog that shares stories and information from a mum raising three autistic and neuro-typical children – to discuss how best to decorate a bedroom for a child with autism.
None of our children sleep great. Estimates say between 50% and 90% of autistic people have some sleeping difficulties, whether that’s going to sleep, staying asleep or sleeping at the wrong time. Kids can also use their bedrooms as somewhere to retreat to so there’s lots to think about when designing and decorating a bedroom.
Over the years we’ve seen a few specialists and received lots of advice for our boys who have ASD and ADHD and know that a good bedtime routine is essential for them. But, thinking about this issue when it comes to decorating or designing their room can have a big impact and help them feel calm, safe and ready for sleep.
Possibly one of the easiest things to adjust in a room is the lighting. Our bodies are meant to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when it’s light. Naturally, a person’s body’s level of melatonin is triggered by darkness so you feel less alert and sleep becomes more inviting. Simply put, my autistic kids fall to sleep better in a room that is mostly dark.
So, no lamps on in the room, no light on in the hall. In the summer we have dark, thick curtains to keep out the evening light or black out blinds. We use nightlights but only ones that are naturally very dim so if the kids need to get up during the night they can do it safely. We’ve found using mains powered ones the best because they don’t run out half way through the night. An autistic child will expect the bedroom to look the same when they wake up in the night as when they went to sleep – this includes the light.
All kids want to be comfortable when they are sleeping. We have Jane on a firm mattress – she’s only six years old and her body still needs firm support to sleep and grow well.
Our boys though are older and Anthony has been in a full-length bed for quite a few years. Like many kids, especially those with autism or ADHD, Anthony moves around a lot in bed wriggling, laying in odd positions and jumping too. So, his bed has got to be solid, stable and well put together.
Some kids may feel safer with a canopy or a bed tent can be good too, especially if you think they might pull a canopy off the ceiling.
Out of sight
Some kids can also feel overwhelmed by all the things in their room, which is why a canopy or bed tent can sometimes help. Items around them can be distracting and keep their brain working past when they should fall asleep.
We try to keep things out of sight using furniture. Our Belvoir Armoire Wardrobe can help things and clothes all be ‘away’. Aspace hand paint lots of their furniture, including their made to order items, so you can choose a calming colour to help the kids relax.
We use storage boxes to keep their toys and belongings away and position open shelves so that they don’t face their beds. We don’t have blue light devices or pictures within their eyesight to distract them either.
Colours and textures
Contrary to many thoughts, using bright, happy or even favourite colours to decorate a child’s bedroom might not help them sleep. Bright colours can be great for stimulating a child imagination or play but a bedroom needs to primarily be for sleep.
Colours like soft browns, greens or blues can create a feeling of calm and support us in going to sleep. Whichever colour you choose look for a matt finish paint to avoid distracting shine and reflection. Busy wallpapers or wall decorations that can be seen from the bed can be distracting when it’s time for sleep. Furniture painted in darker or softer colours can also support this.
The materials around the bedroom can also support some autistic children. Just like their clothes can have a big impact on their ability to feel settled, some children will be better with heavier blankets or thicker duvets, others will need them to be very smooth and light.
Rugs and blankets can also make some autistic children feel more comfortable when relaxing in or moving around their room too. If using a rug, it’s important to make sure the edges are firmly fixed to the floor as some children with autism can be more likely to trip up due to their motor skills challenges.