Hideaway tent photo by Target
Bedrooms and bathrooms
- Create a private space for an older child with a bed tent or canopy that hangs from the ceiling, like this one from Ikea. Many kids with special needs like the feeling of being cocooned or enclosed, and this will help them relax for sleep. Keep the bedroom mostly just for sleeping, reading or playing — stock the room with quiet toys only and limit the amount of noise and overstimulating “stuff.”
- Ask your child to try out different bedding fabrics and choose one with an appealing texture. Selznick says kids with sensory needs often prefer soft jersey or Tencel sheets, but involving your child in the selection will guarantee you find the right material.
- Experiment with alarm clocks (such as the LittleHippo Ready to Rise Timer) to assist with nighttime transitions, and see if your child enjoys having a night light, white noise machine or other sleep aid to help them unwind and feel calmer at bedtime (Selznick warns that some kids will find these too distracting, so it’s definitely hit-or-miss depending on the child).
- Selznick says that one of the biggest triggers in the bathroom is the sounds echoing from the tiles and bathtub, so bringing in some Bluetooth speakers and playing soothing spa music might create a more peaceful bathtime experience.
- Kids with special needs often resist basic grooming tasks because of sensory aversions, but an electric toothbrush with a timer can make getting through the hygiene routine less of a battle.
- Experiment with different hair brushes, loofahs or sponges, and scented bath products. Selznick says that certain smells and textures will bother some kids, but if they’re given a choice about which products to use, they’re more likely to find ones they like and agree to use them regularly.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May 2019, and updated in March 2020.