Contribution from freelance writer Lucy Wyndham
Every once in a while, the Leka Team is happy to welcome external contributors and share their food for thoughts. This post has been written by Lucy Wyndham whose husband is on the spectrum.
Bedrooms are a safe haven for all kids — but particularly for children with autism. It’s a place haven they can go when they’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Special considerations need to be made when designing an autism-friendly bedroom. Indeed, autistic children are 30% more likely to struggle to fall asleep and 43% more likely to struggle staying asleep compared to their neurotypical peers, a study in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders reveals. So, creating a sensory-friendly bedroom that suits your child’s unique needs and preferences can make all the difference to their quality of sleep.
Choosing sensory-suitable bedding is perhaps the most important aspect of designing a comfortable bedroom. Texture is important. What materials does your child already like to wear? Are they soft or stiff? Your child will probably be happy lying on bedding that feels similar to their favorite clothes. Weighted blankets, compression sheets, and heavy comforters also provide extra comfort and reassurance — important for encouraging relaxation and sleep. As for color, opt for neutral shades; patterns, prints, and bright colors may be overstimulating.
If your child’s room is within earshot of a noisy street or even a well-trafficked hallway in your home, you may need to minimize these noises. Unwelcome sounds can be overstimulating, distracting, or startling for an autistic child. Alternatively, other autistic children may need at least some level of background noise to fall asleep. The solution? White noise machines. These clever machines create pleasant, soothing background noise to lull restless sleepers into a deep slumber.
Children with autism are usually sensitive to light — particularly fluorescent or overly bright lights. Once evening hits, it’s best to create soft lighting in the bedroom. Ceiling lights often cast a harsher glare, but dimmer switches allow for control over the brightness. If there’s light coming in from the street, blackout blinds or curtains can prevent this. Leka also functions as a nightlight to provide a comforting glow in the dark. It’s great for children who can’t fall asleep in total darkness.
Finally, if you gift your child Leka or a white noise machine to help improve their sleep, make sure you avoid potential sensory overload. Give it to them in a safe, quiet environment — like their bedroom — and avoid using difficult wrapping paper. Ideally, set up the item up in their bedroom, so it’s ready for them to try out. Whatever improvements you make, your child’s bound to love sleeping in their new soothing, sensory bedroom.