A Safe Haven: Creating an Accessible Bedroom Affordably for a Disabled Child
Creating a safe yet appealing bedroom for a disabled child isn’t like putting together just any bedroom. A child with a disability interacts with her physical environment differently than a child who has none, which means it’s important to think carefully about what her bedroom should and should not include. Whatever you end up with, it should be functional, convenient, safe, and aesthetically appealing so your child can have a comfortable space to get away from the stresses of the day. Ultimately, your child will let you know what’s working and what isn’t, so it’s important to listen to what she has to say and be open to suggestions and requests.
A healthy indoor environment can help keep your child from developing allergies or catching viruses by controlling indoor pollutants. You can also consider diffusing essential oils. Autism Vision of Colorado has a guide on the best oils for different challenges and conditions.
If your child’s condition falls on the autism spectrum, noise may also be an issue, which makes investing in a white noise or sound machine or high-quality headphones worthwhile.
Remember, this is your child’s bedroom, a personal haven that should be easy to get in and out of, and where toys, books, clothes, and other belongings can be easily reached and used. A room with too much poorly arranged furniture can create a space full of barriers for a child who requires a mobility assistive device. The furniture, including bed, dresser, shelves, and chairs, should be selected for their accessibility and safety to minimize injuries. Emphasize pieces that are well-cushioned and have minimal hard or sharp edges.
Storage components, such as drawers and shelving, should be designed for ease of access so that toys, books, and other belongings can be gotten to without causing injuries or falls. For example, a child in a wheelchair would require shelving low enough to be within easy reach using sliding doors rather than doors opened with a knob. Your child’s bed should be low enough that she can move between her wheelchair and bed without assistance, and chairs should have an ergonomic design specially suited to a disabled child. Look for adjustable tables and desks and have light switches lowered so your child can reach them without having to leave her wheelchair.
Electrical cords should be concealed behind furniture or affixed along wall baseboards so they are clear of your child’s path. In addition, any table near the bed that might be used to support her weight is securely anchored to a wall stud. Or, install a grab rail near the head of your child’s bed to help with transfers from bed to wheelchair. There are many small details that are easy to overlook but which represent a tripping hazard, such as a hanging bed comforter or slipcover.
A child with ADHD or some other mental disorder may become disoriented by an excess of light or color and some may be tempted to use furniture in unsafe ways (such as climbing on shelves). Consider minimizing stimuli by installing blackout blinds to mitigate light and sound-inhibiting fabric material that will keep potential aural stimuli down.
Some children may respond well to a well-organized space with colorful, easily distinguished storage bins that help make it easy for them to keep their bedroom organized. You can even look into installing wallpaper in your child’s space. Again, you want to avoid overly bright-colored or busy designs and instead opt for calming hues and patterns. You can use a service like Spoonflower to find adhesive-based and print-on-demand wallpaper. As a tip, order a sample kit of swatches to see how your child responds to the design.
A thoughtful and well-considered selection and arrangement of furniture can create a safe, accessible, and convenient bedroom space for a child with a physical or mental disability. Make periodic assessments to ensure you haven’t overlooked anything that represents a safety threat and talk with your child regularly about any necessary enhancements.
Jenna Sherman is a member of Parent Leaders. Visit their website at parent-leaders.com/
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