Home modification for children with sensory issues is very important as it is therapeutic for meeting their specific sensory needs. The home can be tailor-made to create a more relaxed, creative and flexible environment. Understanding your child’s specific sensory needs is best done by an occupational therapist, followed by the necessary modifications under their trained guidance.
The aim of home modification is to calm or stimulate an individual through each of the senses. Every child is unique and has specific requirements. Children with Autism usually exhibit these requirements through different behavioural patterns. The main focus is to emphasize on the things they are able to do and make it better or safer.
A trained professional can only observe the child for a few hours. This is where the parents play a crucial role. They should observe the child during the rest of the day and make notes about their sensory issues, as these may change through the course of time. This can help therapists in guiding you better while making modifications in your home.
- Be sure to include as many sensory experiences and "stations" as possible.
- Work on 1-2 senses at a time, for example, soothing music/visual stimulation while giving proprioceptive input.
- Use the modified room as "therapy" i.e., 5-7 days a week, 1-2 times per day.
- Do not force anything.
- There should be minimal number of objects to throw or break.
- Secure furniture to walls or floors to prevent it from being tipped over.
- Put a bed beneath the swing or ladder so that if the child falls down he/she won't get hurt
- Be sure to keep all the items the child requires e.g.: water, snacks etc, in the room so that there is no disruption in the session while having the sensory experiences.
- Objects in the room should include soft bean bags, soft mats, big cushions, and pillows.
- There should be no fluorescent lightings.
- Don't use the child's bedroom as they may associate it with behaviors and bad feelings and may not want to use it for leisure, relaxation or sleeping.
- Pay attention to your child's reaction to various stimuli and give him or her more of what he/she is seeking, the best input to calm or stimulate.
- Watch for signs of over stimulation/over arousal/extreme fears.
- Keep away all the sharp tools which will harm the child.
- Always seek for the help of a professional because each individual has unique sensory needs.
- Try to make a provision for a room where the child can go when he/she is getting aggressive.
Most of the children with sensory issues are either in need of a lot of movement or are fearful of movement. This movement or to be precise, the vestibular and proprioceptive inputs can calm or simulate your senses. Hence, these inputs play an important role in sensory integration therapy. These are few vestibular equipment which can be introduced in the home environment:
- Glider chairs.
- Glider rockers.
- Balance boards.
- Tubes to roll in.
- Rocking horses.
- Bouncing ball.
- Riding vehicles.
- Body rocker.
Visual Input and Lighting
Some children have diminished eye contact or get distracted easily due to fluorescent lights. Hence, make sure that there are absolutely no fluorescent lights at home. Also, the colors on the walls should preferably be light so that they have a soothing effect on the child. Avoid making the child sit in front of a wall that is painted with bright or multiple colors. Make sure that there is ample light in the room.
A home modification with a sensory room should have controllable light sources and light therapy. Most importantly, make sure there are absolutely no fluorescent lights. Following are some activities which can be introduced into the home:
- Color cubes.
- LED lighting.
- Fibre optic light sources.
- Rope lights.
- Low wattage pastel colored light.
- Table top water fountains.
- Lava lamps.
- Play tents/huts.
- Glow pen.
- Shimmering curtain.
- UV rods.
There are great relaxing or stimulating tools, depending on how, where, and when they are used and which smells you choose (for example; while cinnamon might be stimulating, lavender may be soothing). For children who are highly sensitive to smells, have them carry a bottle of aromatherapy oil in their pocket to smell when intolerance hits (peppermint often works well). Following are some activities which can be introduced into the home:
- Scented oil
- Scented candles
- Aroma diffuser
- Scented markers
- Scented play doh
- Eye masks
- Calming scents (vanilla, lavender, pepper mint, jasmine)
- Stimulating scents (cinnamon, floral scents)
Background sound can have an impact on a child’s performance. This background noise makes it difficult for the child to focus on the task at hand and he/she may get distracted easily. Minimizing the background noise is the key to improve your child’s attention and concentration. It will ultimately improve the child’s functional performance. There are few children who are sensitive to specific sounds and noises. Identifying these sounds can help in regulating the child’s performance at home. Try to switch off the radio or TV if the child is getting distracted. Try to use sound proof material if the child is getting distracted.
There are certain alarms available in the market which emit a loud sound when the door and window is open. This alarm is turned on and off with a switch. A wrist alarm can be used for children who tend to run away.
Surveillance cameras can be used to monitor your child’s activity. It is usually advisable in an institutional setup where there too many children are working together.
Bathroom and Toilet Modification:
There are certain children who enjoy playing with water. This can lead to overflow or wastage of water. So, alarms can be attached to the water intake pipes of the toilet or sink. On detection of the overflow, it will automatically turn the water off.
The kitchen door should have the provision of a lock. It is also preferable to have locks on individual cabinets and refrigerators. Separate provision for keeping healthy items in the fridge can help the child to focus. It is important to remember to keep all sharp objects likes knives, scissors, etc. inside the cabinets instead of on the kitchen platform.