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How to Build Your Home For an Autistic Child

5 Changes We Made to Our Home So Our Autistic Child Could Thrive

We moved into our home two years ago. We started renovating about one year ago. When my son was diagnosed with autism, the behaviorist gave us a few firm suggestions to consider. One of those suggestions was to give him his own room. We have a four-bedroom home, but one of the bedrooms was my office. I work from home and, with three kids, I need my own space to work — or risk getting fired.

When we decided to rip the floors out to put in tile, I hesitantly decided to give my office up for my son. So far, it was the best decision I have made for him. Below are a few modifications we made to our home to make it easier for my son to thrive.

  1. His own room: I moved my office into my walk-in closet. It is a tight space, but I don't need a big office as much as he needs his own room. Kids with autism often play well when they have their own space. My son loves having his own room. He has spent hours driving his cars and tractors on the floor. We also built him a loft bed so he has a space underneath to sit and read quietly.
  2. SLEEP: I am not going to tell you how much this renovation cost, but it was a pretty penny. It was worth it! As a parent, sleep is a commodity that is scarce and you will pay anything to obtain it. The past few nights, my son has slept in his own bed. He has no one to distract him, or talk to. He has fallen asleep faster by being in his own space, and if you ask me, it is worth the money we spent giving him his own room. Some children with autism have a hard time sleeping. My buddy sometimes only sleeps a few hours a night. I am hopeful this will help him gain some sleep. If he sleeps, I sleep.
  3. Decompression space: When my son had a meltdown, he used to go into my closet for decompression. It was his spot to calm down and gain control of himself. Now the closet is my office, so we bought him a pod chair so he can sit down and shut out the world. This gives him his space and makes him feel safe.
  4. Access to his clothing: We have a very specific routine in the mornings. By giving my son access to his dresser drawers, he can place his clothing out at night so he can be ready for the morning. He does not like me to get his clothing, so I put his dresser right next to his bed. He feels like he is in control of his choices.
  5. Limited his access to toys at night: I took most of the toys out of his room. He only has a few trucks and books; all other toys are stored in the toy room at night. This way he is not distracted at bedtime. He is allowed to take a book and one toy into bed with him. By taking out the toys, I eliminated the stimuli from his room.

I think the key ingredient here is to give your child what they need. My son needs space in order to avoid being over-stimulated. He needs a spot to recover from meltdowns, and a place to rest. I will happily work in my closet to give him what he needs. Making that sacrifice will in turn bring peace to my home. I am positive we will still have rocky, emotional days, but at least he now has his own safe space.

Image Source: Corbis Images
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