Designing Home Spaces for a Child with ASD

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Designing Home Spaces for a Child with ASD: Safety Part One of Two

May 16, 2017, Mark Stary, ASID, CID

Home Spaces for a Child with ASD: Safety Part One of Two
ACES will be publishing a series of posts on residential interior design tips for the spectrum. Creating interiors for children on the spectrum can be both exciting and challenging. The main goals of designing autism friendly environments are to foster and nurture health, wellness, a sense of belonging and safety. A visually and sensory pleasing space will lend itself to growth, relaxation and a feeling of security for both a child and family.

Today's topic, Safety, is always the number one priority; which is why I will focus two blogs on this subject. Part One will cover furniture and floor safety. Part Two will focus on safety in the bath and kitchen areas.

It's important to consider safety in almost every design decision we make. Choosing furniture and finish materials resilient to falls and bumps that create a soft landing pad is a good place to start when putting together a room.

Furniture that is fully upholstered usually works well. If a child is incident prone, leather is longer lasting but microfiber textiles, faux suedes and textures all clean up rather quickly. The above textiles also work great if a child needs to avoid allergens that collect in other types of woven fabrics. Chenille and faux fur fabrics are great tactile textures and can be very comforting as a pillow or lap blanket.

Upholstered ottoman in place of a coffee table
I like to use an upholstered ottoman in place of a coffee table. To dress it up and make it functional you can float a nice tray on it for drinks, books and accessories and remove it for play time. Some ottomans have storage space inside which can be really handy. Avoid furniture with sharp corners. Circular tables and furniture with radius edges can be a great buffer to falls and tumbles.

Area rugs and carpet always offer a soft-landing pad. Be sure to use a rug pad underneath to prevent tripping on corners and use double-sided tape to tack down the corners of rugs. Low profile carpeting is more hypoallergenic than longer pile carpeting. Low profile carpeting works really well if the child has activity toys that glide across the floor. There is a great selection of low profile carpeting out there, from a rich "saxony" finish to a clean, modern organic look. Wool carpet is also a great option and very cleanable as it is a natural fiber.

Be sure that tables lamps are heavy enough to not tip over and do not have lightbulbs that can be easily touched. I like to use wall sconces to keep end tables free and add visual depth to a wall. Ceiling down lights are a good option as well. I will go more in depth on lighting design in an upcoming post but the main idea in good lighting design is to not to be able to directly see the source of the lamp (lightbulb) especially with LED lighting.

Part two of this series will focus on Kitchen and Bath design.