Monday, April 23, 2012

Making Your Home Special Needs Friendly

I wonder how many of you, like me, have uttered these words at one time or another:  "I will not re-decorate my home for my children.  I will not move things out of their reach.  I will not have toys take over my home.  I will teach my child to not touch what isn't his.  And I will teach him there is a place for everything and everything in its place."

Hang pictures on a curtain rod. Like this whole look.
No touchy-touchy, little kids!

Come on.  Admit it.  You know you've said something similar.

And then you had a child.  Or several.

And reality set in.

Through the years, I've made countless changes in my home solely because of the kids.

I mean, I was perfectly happy with an assortment of magazines and candles arranged just so on my coffee table.  But I was not happy with magazines ripped to shreds, then haphazardly tossed around, along with bites taken out of my candles.  So I surrendered and now have a perfectly bare coffee table top.  Not my idea of homey decor but hey, it's just easier that way.

coffee table ideas
Lit candles and dried flowers? Not a chance.

Having a special needs child can make decorating extra difficult.  Many of these kiddos have all kinds of different issues that need to be addressed in the home environment.  And sometimes, you just want your home to look nice, too!

By scouring the interwebs, I've come across several ways to make your home special needs friendly,  while still maintaining some order and a sense of fun.

  • Rid your home (or specific rooms) of carpet and install flooring more appropriate for wheelchairs, walkers, IV poles, or other rolling equipment.
  • Because carpeting helps absorb sound, if you remove it, your home may seem louder.  Place plenty of beanbags, pillows, quilts and throws around to help minimize noise. It also makes for convenient snuggling!
  • Use washable fabrics and slipcovers whenever possible.
  • Paint walls in soothing colors.
  • Replace florescent lighting.  Take advantage of soft, natural lighting when possible.
  • If your home does not have a security system, consider using battery operated wireless door alarms that will sound if your child opens a door.  This could even be useful on a bedroom door to signal you to any middle of the night wandering.
  • Arrange your kitchen cabinets and drawers to encourage a little help for mom from the kiddos. I think Lily is capable of doing much more around than house than I give her the chance to do. For example, I'm pretty sure she could unload the silverware and sort it in the appropriate slots of the utensil tray.  Making cabinets and drawers more accessible might encourage me to teach more of these life skills to Lily.
  • In our home, toilet paper does not reside on the holder.  Since it is might tempting for the Bird to dunk whole rolls in the potty or carry them into the shower with her, we store all TP in hanging baskets that Lily can't reach.
Now let's talk about the bedroom for a special needs child.
  • Use black out curtains to block light and make sleeping a bit easier.
  • Get a white noise machine to muffle sounds of family members who stay up later.
  • Consider painting a fun mural on one wall of a child's room rather than hanging artwork in frames.
  • If your child has a dresser, make sure the drawer pulls do not allow for climbing.
  • We have large individual photos of family members hanging on a wire right at the ceiling level of Lily's room.  She can't reach them but since they're poster size, she can easily see them and she loves looking at them.
  • The Bird has a television/DVD player combo in her room but it's wall mounted and up high so she can't reach it.  The plug is hidden behind the dresser but if I had my druthers, I'd have an electrician come out and install another plug up high behind the TV.
  • If your child has medical needs and you need access to supplies throughout the day, consider getting a bedside table with locking cabinets.  Or organize supplies in the closet and put a lock up high on the outside of the closet door.
  • Consider hanging a swing or leaving a mini-trampoline out for times when your child needs to calm down and get organized or burn off some steam.
Here's some shots of the Bird's room:

All washable slipcovers - yay!

The pictures on a wire I mentioned. And the table and chairs? No longer there. Someone kept using them for ladders...

Black out curtains

Of course, even with all these good ideas, there are plenty of days in which my home decor consists of laundry in a pile waiting to be folded, popcorn kernels scattered around the floor, sippie cups on the coffee table, fingerprints (and mouth prints!) smeared on the back door glass, and toys in every room.

But that's life.

And some days are just like that.  

I've learned to live with it.


  1. Ahhhh, yes. The home decor... What a disappointment, huh?

    Here are a few we added:

    Little Miss's bed is in our room now. Though she still doesn't use it much, it has helped with the pure terror we were going through at bedtime.

    My dad is currently building an indoor swing stand that will go in the area that was billed as a dining room.

    Even with LM at age 4, we still have most of our doors and cabinets baby-locked. It's waaaay safer that way!

  2. Seriously, how did you get a picture of my living room with my flowers?!? Hahaha!!! If that were in my house the fire dept. would be here in under 20 seconds---you see that lighted flame?

    Our house is stark compared to most homes. I've watched Hoarders one too many times and everything that could be broken has been. I now buy the bulk of things from Target. Sigh.

  3. Sorry about your failed Pottery Barn vision. SOOOO with you on the SN kid's room thing. Lily doesn't climb, but she's started pulling out the drawers and flinging her clothes from them when agitated. SOOOO exhausting.

    Love my leather couches. . . pee cleans off them SO EASILY!

  4. I am so stealing that picture wire idea! I LOVE it!

    What a great list. I love that you included a tip about the toliet paper after the incident ya'll had last week!

    I had grand visions for my home and how it would look even though I'm not overly in to decor. Then I walked in to my friends house and changed my mind instantly. Amongst the sweet professional family pics on the wall were taped up kid drawings and notes saying "I love you mom". Instead of cute knick knacks, her shelves were full of toy baskets. Her formal living room was bare of actual furniture but instead filled with train tables and box forts. At that moment, even though my kids were just babies at the time, I knew that was the kind of house I wanted. One where the kids could be in their comfort zone and one where we proudly display art work and never take it down for certain guests. When people walk in my house, I don't apologize for how "kidded" out it is. Cameron rips things apart so we don't have fancy frames or nice coffee table books but I'm okay with it and actually quite proud of the home we've become. My kids really LIVE here and it shows!

  5. Those first two photos - ROFLMAO!!! Can you imagine?! Before T was born, I had these dark amber glass candle holders, 3 of them at various heights on the table behind our living room couch.... I remember those! They were destroyed (without injury - luckily) before he was one year old! Everything with corners in our house has that lovely beige cushion padding with sticky tape on it - so he doesn't bash and bruise so easily. He still bashes and bruises - just without associated blood.

    I love the wire and the poster size prints! That is just awesome. Now I understand what you mean about the face recognition stuff. And yeah, T would've used that table and the chairs for climbing as well. (sigh) ;)

  6. Ah...but you love that Birdie has those amazing gross motor skills! It sounds like she craves vestibular or movement therapy. How about a chair hammock? I would love one of those!

    Many children with Autism love to climb. One therapist told me that they love being perched on a height like an eagle, where they control all sensory input. As a person who suffers from sensory issues, it sounds perfect to me.

    I love the photo idea!

  7. I love Bird's room!

    I know what you mean. I love candles and flowers and all that pretty stuff. But it's not happening with my kid. I did get some battery operated candles - and those are nice. It's funny when Norrin tries to blow them out ;)

  8. Let me add to get a video monitor for the bedroom if you are afraid your child might get out of their room at night and possibly find a way to wander out of the house.


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