Creating Therapeutic Spaces at Home
Over the past year families have had to adapt in a number of ways, notably by spending much more time at home. For many parents of children with autism, this change has also raised the question of how to best ensure continuity of services such as ABA, speech therapy, or occupational therapy. While these services can also be delivered in the home, a great option for many families, parents might wonder about the potential drawbacks of the shift in setting. In the March issue of Metro Parent, Gateway’s own occupational therapist Andrew Beveridge offers advice for parents facing this dilemma and looking for ways to bring the therapy environment into the home.
To start, Beveridge suggests considering the flooring in your child’s designated therapy space. Making a change doesn’t have to entail an involved renovation. It can be as simple as bringing in area rugs or floor mats, or better yet, some combination of these to create a multisensory experience. Having surfaces of varying textures provides opportunities for exploration and discovery as children move about the space.
Beveridge also urges parents to think about the choice of color in their child’s therapy room. For some kids, having walls that are brightly colored could be visually overstimulating. Beveridge advises opting for cooler or more muted tones to achieve a calming environment. This also can be a relatively easy way to update a space and can always be changed at a latertime if needed.
Aside from varying floor surfaces, Beveridge invites parents to consider textures more broadly in terms of the items that are available to the child. Putting together a sensory bin, for example, can be a great and inexpensive way for parents to provide their child with positive sensory input. Having toys and other items of multiple textures can not only satisfy a child’s current sensory needs, but also serve as a learning opportunity, enabling the child to gradually broaden the variety of textures with which they are comfortable.
Finally, parents might also consider items that might be found in a typical therapy setting such as trampolines, beanbag chairs, or sensory swings. Items such as these can help children get the sensory input they seek, but also can be a great source of motivation. As a point of caution, though, Beveridge points out the downside of having too many items in one space and suggests avoiding clutter, which can disrupt the routine of a child on the autism spectrum. We hope you find these suggestions helpful. For more information on autism and related topics, please continue to follow our blog and social media posts. Have a great day!