CHAPTER 1: Decorating A Space For A Special Needs Child

White fireplace mantle with plant and books and two photographs hanging above

Five years ago I was blessed with a child that has sensory issues and ADHD on top of it. I recently found out that those two often occur together. Being a mom, you’re always learning more about yourself as well as your kids and how to best support them with the right tools. It has been a really frustrating five years of toothpaste smearing, shampoo squeezing, light switching. Do I need to go on? Parents of special needs children get it. If you don’t have a special needs child, you don’t know. You just haven’t had the exposure, that’s all.

My son Asher has tested me over and over again. My walls are dotted with holes, my lipstick squished on the countertop and my perfume sprayed all over.

You could say my child is crazy, but I look at it differently. He is sensory seeking and his needs are not being met. I could blame him, or instead, I could look at myself and say “what am I not doing for my child?”

I have since then learned that walls can be repaired. Lipstick is just lipstick, and whatever I value that I don’t want ruined- I just need to hide. There are so many modifications that you need to make in the home of a residing special needs child.

Parents of special needs children need to revamp their house and make it “special needs friendly”.

But how?

How can I have a beautiful home that is also functional? I don’t want to take the art off the walls so that my child doesn’t ruin it!

You don’t have to- I didn’t. Even though a behavioral psychologist suggested I do that.

Your lifestyle needs to be modified but not completely altered.

And it starts with the child.

Your child will tell you what he needs based on his behavior and what he is seeking.

I decided to look at his bedroom as a first clue.

As an interior designer, I am constantly updating and revamping spaces in my house. Moving pillows, adding wallpaper. For me, DIY projects are innovative and fun. You could call it stress relief. I recently updated my older son’s room. Side note- I recently separated my two children and put them each in their own room. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that my loving special needs son, Asher, was stressing my older son Nathan. That’s another thing parents of non special needs children don’t know. Your special needs child really changes the family dynamic. It can have a stressful impact on the other children. In my case, Asher was waking up early (between 4:30-5) and was waking up Nathan. Taking his toys, throwing pillows and stuffed animals at him, ruining his magnet tile castle. Etc etc etc….

It was time to separate them.

Ok, back to my design.

I repainted Nathan’s room and added wallpaper to an accent wall. It came out beautiful. But here’s the issue: Asher told me he wanted me to paint his room too!

Mind you, I am in love with the design of Asher’s room. It is an original idea and so authentic to what my design style is- vibrant and colorful- just enough, and in style!

Here it is:

Child's bedroom with toys and wallpaper

Don’t mind the truck, it’s an Asher T trademark.

Now get this: Asher says he wants the walls to be white! I said absolutely not- how could I possibly peel the star stickers off? It took me hours to put them up! And the color? Come on! It’s light blue on the bottom, symbolizing daytime, and dark blue on top, symbolizing night time!

He kept asking and asking, which led me to look deeper into the issue and think about it.

And then I listened.

I asked our wonderful OT- could colors trigger a sensory child and change his mood? She said absolutely.

I was so proud of my child for being able to voice that he didn’t like the color. He was essentially telling me- Mom, this is not making me feel comfortable in my own room! But because he just turned 5 and his speech is delayed, he wasn’t able to express why he was feeling this way.

So a few nights ago, I told him- Mommy is going to change the wall color and make it more comfortable for you. He said he wanted white. I said, you got it! I decided I would revamp his room completely and make it calming and sensory friendly.

I mentally accepted this challenge and started to peel off the stickers. I predict that this will take me all weekend- but hey, it’s actually a stress reliever and I feel empowered that I’m able to help my son!

Parents with special needs children- I know you get it!

This is the beginning of my journey to improve my child’s sensory needs, and hopefully help other parents who are so frustrated, defeated and absolutely drained from their children, not to mention feel guilty for all those feelings and feel scared to express these emotions out loud.

So here’s the beginning!

This is a tent I put up, small enough for my child to crawl in there and feel cozy. I don’t want him to have a big tent because I want him to feel like there’s too much space. This is his OWN space. Followed by a fluffy rug that he could feel with his feet and hands. And a soft back pillow that he can lean on but will also hug him. My sensory child loves to be squished and rolled like a burrito, and get squeezing massages. Every sensory child is different….

Teepee in a child's bedroom with a pillow

Stay tuned for more progress!

Are you ready for a home where your whole family can thrive?

Reach out to schedule your discovery call today.

Intentional Interior Design that Helps Your Family Thrive.

Let us be your interior designer of choice in New Jersey, New York, and the tri-state area!

BRT Interior Design
560 Sylvan Ave
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632
(917) 484-0789

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Interior designer in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey specializing in sensory-friendly spaces for children and individuals.