A Special Contribution from Lucy Wyndham:
For people on the Autism Spectrum, the world is a difficult place, full of sensory overload, unpleasantness, bullying and frustration. School, work and social events are all difficult situations to handle for people with ASD because of their unusual sensitivity to any kind of sensory assault, such as loud noises, bright lights and crowds. Technology can be particularly hard to deal with for people with ASD, as the noises, lights and stimulation associated to it can be too much to handle.
A home is a sanctuary for everyone, where everyone feels a sense of serenity, safety and peace of mind. It’s even more important for a person or child diagnosed with autism and understanding how to make an autism friendly home is very important.
We have already looked at how to make work spaces autism friendly; let’s look at how to make living conditions ideal for those who are on the Autism Spectrum.
Remodel the Sensory Environment
Making a home autism friendly isn’t easy, as it does require some renovating and some lifestyle changes; it can be challenging for siblings and parents who also have needs and would like to invite friends, make noise, choose new foods or otherwise complicate life. Family life is not always calm and changes are sometimes inevitable.
Avoid using fluorescent lights, which can induce anxiety and stress; soft, natural lighting is better for mood and attention. Certain colors of light – such as blue – have also been shown to help with creativity and calmness.
Another good idea is to have one area of the home filled with bright colors and technological activities for the whole family, such as a television and a stereo, and another area with soft colors, blank walls, quiet activities such as books and soft textures.
Technology Can Help
When refurbishing your home to make it accessible for autistic people, technology can be a great help. For example, a white noise machine in the bedroom can be an excellent way to calm down and stimulate sleep while reducing sensory overload. For maximum efficiency, limit the use of electric light after sunset. Noise reducing headphones can be another solution to reduce sensory overload, whereas normal headphones can be used by other members of the family to listen to music or use other noisy devices such as video game consoles.
Certain types of portable technology, such as smartphones, computers and tablets, can also be useful and can provide an excellent tool to keep in the house. Many people with ASD are stimulated by computers and technology if used in the correct way. Today, there are thousands of applications which provide assistive technology to help communications. These can benefit people with ASD as they stimulate learning and communication while responding always in an expected manner. A computer or app is predictable, as the user knows exactly what the computer’s response will be when a specific action is completed, unlike interactions with people. This consistency is comforting and feels safe to people with ASD.
Keep an Eye Out for Stress
Remember that a person with ASD might not always be able to communicate exactly what the problem is, so a little detective work might be necessary. By remaining always attentive, it is possible to identify the problem and brainstorm simple solutions to fix the issue.