I wanted to share this informative guest post that was shared with me about making your home sensory friendly for children with special needs.
Children with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) experience the world in a different way. With their sensory needs met, they can function more comfortably in their world. This is especially important in your home, which is our safe zone. Also, it is suggested that you speak with your occupational therapist about specific recommendations for furniture since they will be able to guide you more specifically about what furniture is best for your child and will meet their sensory needs most effectively. To learn more information about Sensory Processing Disorder, click here.
Creating an inviting and comfortable home for your family is important, but it can be even more important for families with special needs children. This is especially true for the dining room, since mealtime can be difficult and stressful for families who have children with special needs for many reasons, some of which may be attributed to the sensory experience of eating.
Parents may be less likely to make sit-down dinners a ritual if mealtimes become nerve-wracking or overwhelming, but making a point to eat regular meals together with loved ones is beneficial to your family’s nutrition, habits, and mental health no matter what. Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) face many discomforts associated with eating and with some dining room environments, so it’s important to create a space that makes the mealtime experience inviting and successful for the whole family. Below are a few ways to achieve a cozy, satisfying dining space that helps limit the difficulties associated with mealtime for children suffering from sensory related processing issues.
Limit the decor and declutter. For some children with sensory processing issues, too many objects or distractions on the table can be a huge issue. What may look like a little mess to you could look like complete chaos to them. That is why it’s best to limit the decor in your home. To do this, tone down the amount of toys, clutter, photos, and other decorations in the rooms that your child spends the most time in. If a child with SPD is surrounded by clutter, it becomes more difficult to process everything around them and they might mental or physically shut down. Avoid these challenges by incorporating neutral color palettes in the home, decorating walls with one large photo instead of multiple photos, and avoiding knick-knacks, that way there is less “noise” for a child with SPD to categorize in each room. You want to make the surroundings minimalistic to help calm your children and allow them to better enjoy the meal with your family.
Purchase sturdy dining room furniture. You will want to invest in reliable chairs that do not tip, as well as a large, well-built dining room table that fits all of your family members. Mealtimes might be longer since children who suffer from sensory processing issues usually exhibit extreme behaviors like throwing tantrums due to an overload of visual and auditory stimulation. Because of this, it could be useful to invest in a comfortable, cushioned chair or bench that has a sturdy back to pair with your dining room table, that way your child is less likely to tip over in their seat and will feel more secure with the added support. Here are some examples of durable dining tables that provide an intimate and cozy atmosphere for families. Simple changes like incorporating a larger, more durable dining room table or more comfortable seating can improve self-feeding and nutritional intake, making mealtime a more positive experience for everyone.
Create a dedicated “chill-out” zone. Today’s Parent suggests parents and caregivers create a dedicated space for children with SPD to go to when they are experiencing tough emotional times. You can even include their favorite items like stuffed animals, books, sensory toys, headphones to cancel out noise, and comfy chairs and blankets. Also, it’s important to make the room organized, so feel free to label drawers and baskets. This will help soothe your child, since sensory kids are often “visual learners who thrive when they know the system.” When choosing decor for this room, avoid fluorescent lighting or any lighting that emits a noise and keep the walls pretty bare. It’s important to note that this space should be somewhere your child goes to when they want to feel safe and comfortable, and should not be used as a place for punishment.
Don’t be afraid to research other ways to help your child cope with SPD. This disorder is manageable with simple changes like establishing a sensory-friendly home and ensuring the environment is comfortable and welcoming for the whole family. Your child’s emotional and physical development and success is dependent upon you as the parent and caregiver, so make sure you utilize these tips among other resources to help your child cope with and overcome sensory processing issues.
Disclaimer from Gravitybread: I do not receive any commission for any furniture purchased through Arhaus. This article was published on my blog to help provide information for parents who have children with sensory issues.
Looking for some children books about sensory processing disorder? Check out these titles and articles!
To learn more about evidence based reading aloud strategies, check out my ebook here.