Earlier I talked about the importance of making your home a haven for your special needs child. Sensory disorders can really make the world a challenging place. And having a safe space to come home to really makes the difference. Today I would like to expand on how I’m working on creating that haven for my son.
My son is very sensitive to different clothing. He won’t wear jeans or structured pants. He really doesn’t like socks, will only wear Crocs, and comfort is the name of the game. Okay, so now you know his preferences. But I struggle with his preferences. Because to me, he always looks like he is heading to the gym.
So I used to buy him jeans, hoping that ‘loose fit’ was the same as sweatpants. Nope! And I get polo shirts, because we have to wear something to church that is nicer than a t-shirt. Fortunately he will wear polo shirts. He will even wear dress shirts if the fabric is smooth and it’s not too tight.
I’m learning that I need to relax and stop buying jeans, hoping he will wear them. Instead, I am always on the lookout for very comfortable clothes. Because when he is comfortable, the world is easier to manage. I have found a few products that I love, and I want to share them to make your life easier as well.
First of all, my son hates uncomfortable underwear. Who doesn’t? But his sensitivities are more than some. I found that Jockey brand has the softest material for their boxer briefs. And they have this material that stretches every direction and is very soft. It’s expensive, so we have a plan that if he has zero accidents for a set amount of time I buy him another pair. It has helped our accidents to drop significantly.
Like many things, my decorating style is very different from my son’s preferences. He is really young, so we are still getting to know that side of him. But I am finding that if I decorate his room in his taste, not mine, he is more comfortable there. I am also learning to decorate more simply in the rest of the house too. A few years ago I learned that too much clutter and too many decorations increased his stress levels.
Now I try not to fill every shelf and every table top with decorations. I leave more open spaces on the walls, and I use more relaxing colors. I have also learned that very soft material is calming for my son. So I make as many things out of it as I can.
We have throw pillows in the family room I’ve covered with super soft (not furry, just soft) material. And I made snuggle blankets for watching movies and TV with it. Different parts of the world have different fabrics, but softness is the key. And if you are not one who sews, there are often fleece blankets for sale around the holidays that are a wonderful substitute.
Strong lighting can overstimulate kids with sensitive sensory needs. But I love well-lit spaces. I like to be able to see the details around me. But bright lights can be too much for my son. I have noticed he often retreats to gentle lighting when he needs a break.
So I have a lamp in his room to give him an option if the overhead light feels too strong. And I have made myself let go of the “you’re going to go blind if you are watching TV with the lights off” old wives’ tale from my youth. During the day (when it’s sunny), I try to use the windows as the primary lighting in the house.
We also have a film on our windows that I put on when we first moved in to make them more energy efficient. It makes the light filter in more gently. Fewer stores sell that film anymore. But if you are curious, Amazon sells it here. I love the added privacy it gives. It makes the windows a one-way mirror during the day.
One issue we had a few months ago really had me stumped. My son stopped sleeping in his own room. He told me his room didn’t feel safe. But I need my sleep. I was determined to get things back to normal. So I slept in his bed for a couple nights to “research” the situation.
Sure enough, every morning at 5 a.m. my next door neighbor started up his huge pickup truck and made the whole room vibrate. He would let it warm up in the driveway for at least 10 minutes before rumbling away. Sigh. Not such an easy thing to fix. After a lot of thought, I came up with an idea.
My son’s bed was in the corner of the room, against the outside wall. He was in the perfect place to hear outside noises. So I rearranged the room. I moved his shelves to that outside corner. And I got some inexpensive insulated curtains to block the noise from the window.
I found a thick throw rug for his floor, so he would not hear my husband when he worked late in his office directly below. And I moved his bed to be against an inside wall. Finally, I found an upholstered headboard and added it to his bed to aid the noise absorption. His room is a much quieter place now.
Everyone is different. But paying attention to what makes a space truly comfortable will make a difference for your loved one. Not every family can be as accommodating as I have been. If I had more than one child, it would change things dramatically. But the changes I have made have blessed our family. I am so glad my son seems less stressed. There are always going to be some things I can’t accommodate, like his desire to never shower—sorry, not going to happen. But making these changes over time (that he may not have consciously noticed) makes our home more sensory-friendly.
This article was previously published on Abby’s page at Patheos.com
Abby is capable and caring. She is learning more about Autism and parenthood every day. And even though she is the first to admit she makes a lot of mistakes, she is so grateful to be on this journey. She comes from a family with many autistic members. She invites us to join her, as she shares her adventures. She wishes to emphasize that Autism is a difference not a defect. If you or a family member have autism yourself, Abby wants you to know that this isn't a bad thing. And you or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will teach the world this new language.