Browsing Pinterest is a favorite pastime for a lot of us. We love pinning home decorating ideas, finding motivational posts for our self-growth and goals, tips for putting together a stunning outfit or finding your next bold haircut, or dreaming up the perfect sand-between-the-toes vacation. I’m almost always pinning decorating trends, ideas for my interior design clients, and occasionally, things for my own home.
My style in my home is heavily impacted by something (or rather someone) very important to me: my daughter. She has special needs, so a lot of things that would work in others’ homes would definitely not work in mine. I had to give special consideration not to just how things looked, but with a greater awareness of her safety, accessibility, and our caregiving needs. Decor that at the outset looked very cute and trendy I knew would be a real hazard to have around (like plants!). My choices largely depended on where she was at developmentally and what behaviors and habits she had at the time.
When decorating for special needs considerations (also known as accessible design), there is a laundry list of considerations. We asked a wide range of people for input on some of the things they have either done in their own homes to accommodate needs, or what they wished they had. All-in-all, every situation is extremely personalized, but this is a good list to help think through some of the considerations. With so much of the world difficult to navigate with special needs, creating the home environment with comfort and safety in mind is so important to connection and wellness.
Texture and pile:
- Choose materials that are soft underfoot
- Consider low pile to accommodate a wheelchair or unsteady walking
- Add a rug pad for extra grip and cushion if needed
- Color and pattern: Busy patterns can negatively impact someone who is unsteady on their feet
- Choose something that is easy to clean and stain resistant for those inevitable spills or incontinence needs
Pay attention to whether a fabric feels scratchy, pills or sheds easily, transfers color. This is particularly important for upholstered furniture and bedding. High performance fabrics on furniture is a sanity-saver!
There are 3 considerations for lighting in a home: ambient, task and accent.
Ambient is your main lighting which can include recessed lighting, chandeliers, vanity lights, etc. Task lighting includes table or desk lamps or under cabinet lighting. Accent lighting can be lighting from the ambient category, but with a bigger consideration for control (like installing dimmer switches, or having it focused on a particular thing like a piece of artwork).
The temperature of the bulbs or the type of lighting can impact behavior. Install dimmer switches if possible to give as much control over lighting as possible if your child is sensitive. You can also take advantage of rope lights, lava lamps, different colored light bulbs, etc. to make the space as comforting as possible to your child.
Accessibility + Safety
Accessibility is about making as much of the home accessible to your child in the way that is the most safe. Aside from more intensive changes with construction, some basic safety considerations are grab bars in strategic places, outlet covers, securing furniture to walls, door handles instead of knobs, or ramps into the house.
Play + safe space
Create a space that is just for them. Perhaps it’s their bedroom, or a special corner of the living room, but find a space for them to be able to self-regulate and have their comforts around them (low lighting, sound dampening, weighted blankets, fidgets, etc).
A huge one that came up again and again was a sensory swing!
Choose colors that promote calmness for paint colors and textiles. Some kids can get really wound up with lots of stimulating colors and patterns.