Bedroom design for children with special needs requires some additional care and consideration to make the room as functional as possible. Whether you child has a physical disability or suffers from asthma or allergies, some relatively minor adjustments can make their bedroom a special place where they get a break from the strains they may face in their daily lives.
When designing a bedroom for a special needs child with a physical disability, your foremost concern should be accessibility. Your child should be able to easily reach their shelves, open their drawers and closets, and maneuver within the room. First, start with some common sense adjustments:
- Invest in long, horizontal shelves instead of tall, vertical ones for storing books and toys. You can either buy horizontal shelves, or simply place vertical shelves you already have on their side.
- If your child has a problem turning door knobs, replace traditional knobs with door levers. If the levers are too hard to use, consider placing the door on swing hinges so you child only has to push the door to open it, or a pocket door that slides into the wall.
- Move light switches down to a level your child can reach. A motion sensor light will help a child who cannot operate a standard light switch.
If your child is in a wheelchair, you need to be sure they can easily move around in their room in their chair, and get in and out of the room by themselves. Consider this when you layout the room - a 36 inch aisle is usually required for a wheelchair to pass easily. The doorway should be at least 32 inches wide for a wheelchair or walker to get through. Make sure the door does not block access to the room when it swing open - you can swap a right swinging door for a left one, or vice versa, if this is the case.
Make sure the tables and desks in your child's room are tall enough and deep enough to accommodate a wheelchair, and that your child can sit there comfortably. Investing in a table with adjustable legs may be worthwhile, so it can grow with your child.
Asthma and Allergies
If your child suffers from asthma or has severe allergies, protecting them from environmental concerns is of more concern than accessibility. To keep their rooms allergen free, consider the following steps:
- Pull up carpeting and stick with a hardwood floor. Carpets trap an enormous amount of dust that vacuuming cannot adequately remove.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep the moisture in the air low, so mold and fungus cannot grow. Keep the heat down as low as possible in the winter.
- Seal your child's mattress in a plastic cover.
- Keep furniture and decorations minimal - anything with fabric will hold onto dust, and the more surfaces there are, the more surfaces to breed allergens.
- Keep family pets out of your child's bedroom.
- Install an air purifier in the room.
If your child has a visual impairment, keep the room as clutter free and organized as possible to help your child navigate the space. Set the bed in a direct path to the door so your child has easy access day or night. Stick to wall-to-wall floor coverings to avoid corners that could curl and catch at feet from an area rug and hang hooks on the backs of doors at shoulder height so your child can easily keep things up off the floor.
Try to lay the room out so that there is a natural place for everything that your child can learn to navigate in time. Don't be afraid to add in some tactile elements as well, such as furry throw pillows or velvet drapes that will allow your child to enjoy the decor in her own way.
Design your autistic child's bedroom with his special needs in mind. Children can fall all over the spectrum and be bothered by different different colors, lights, sounds or stimuli. Some design tips that may work for many children include:
- Using heavy, immovable furniture that is bolted to walls.
- Using lots of low shelves for toy storage that will minimize climbing or frustration.
- Use easy-to-access bins for sorting and grouping toys.
- Consider a platform bed that is low to the ground in case of falls.
- Use blackout curtains to help control the level of light in the room.
Purchasing Decor for Children with Special Needs
While many items may be easily adapted to your child's needs, there are several resources available that may cater to exactly what you need, including:
Things to Keep in Mind
Aside from the additional considerations that you need to keep in mind, there is no need to approach bedroom design for children with special needs differently that you would designing any child's bedroom. As soon as your child is old enough, involve them in the process of decorating their bedrooms. For a special needs child, this takes on special significance for two reasons. First, your child can communicate to you the needs they have, the problems they face within the room design, and the things that could make their lives easier. Second, your special needs child's bedroom should be a place where they can escape their problems and truly be comfortable - giving them a hand in the design process will ensure they get the haven they deserve.