April is designated as National Autism Awareness month, and since 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)*, chances are you know or live with someone with ASD.
Many with ASD experience heightened sensitivity, to things they see, hear and touch. Luckily, there are some specific steps you can take to create spaces in your home that are sensory-friendly.
“People with autism have many sensitivities: some are more sensitive touch, noise level, changes in daily schedules. All which make living with autism very challenging.” — Asha Kidd, Principal of Augusta Evans School, specializing in special education
The key things to think about are color, light, patterns and texture. Here’s how to make them work in a sensory-friendly setting:
1. Paint with Soft Colors.
While white tends to be a common wall color for many homes, it’s not the best choice for those with sensory sensitivity. White is highly reflective and can lead to feelings of anxiety and discomfort. You should also avoid bright colors like yellow, red, purple and orange, and opt for pastels or different shades of blue and green. Neutral colors like gray and tan are also great options that help soothe and provide comfort rather than stress.
2. Pay Attention to Lighting.
Bright fluorescent lighting is prone to flickering and creating flare, which can cause sensory overload for people with ASD. A great option to soften lighting in any room is to use LED dimmable lightbulbs. LED’s are the closest thing to replicate natural sunlight which works well for sensory sensitivity.
3. Use Simple Patterns.
Busy graphics and patterns have the ability to cause a fight-or-flight response for those with ASD. If you are decorating a room, choose décor with simple patterns, predictable or repeating patterns. These types of easy-on-the-eye patterns offer visual relief.
4. Design with Texture… or don’t.
Sensitivity to touch varies greatly for those with ASD, so design with your loved one’s preferences in mind. Most individuals will fall into 2 categories – cool and smooth or soft and textured. Great surfaces for cool and smooth lovers are natural wood flooring and wood furnishings. For those who prefer texture, plush, soft fabrics, pillows and carpeting wok well. Avoid harsh, scratchy fabrics and surfaces.
Keeping these tips in mind will help create calm, relaxing spaces that everyone can enjoy.