My child is neurodivergent. This is how I tailored our home environment so daily life is less challenging.

Your home environment plays a pivotal role in the health and happiness of your child

Your experience of your environment is largely determined by your senses. How it looks, smells, feels, sounds. We can enhance our environments by lighting candles, adding comfy throws, changing the temperature, and adding decorative details to make it look more appealing.

But imagine if you had sensory overload.

Imagine if living in your home made your life more difficult than it needed to be.

This is the case for many neurodivergent children. Whether they’re autistic, have ADHD, retained reflexes or sensory perception distortions, the environment a child lives in can either have a detrimental or positive effect on their mood, their behaviour and their day to day experience of life.

For most parents, a messy house is a daily challenge. Teaching our children to tidy up their things, put items away that they’ve used, put their laundry in the washing basket, organise their school things so they know where to find them and generally just maintain a tidy space is a way of instilling soft skills like organisation, cleanliness, discipline, self respect, respect for the home and even time management into our children. We reward it as good behaviour.

But for the parents of neurodivergent children, this is a daily battle that shouldn’t be fought and can not be won. We need to do things differently.

Thinking and concentration burns an incredible amount of energy. If you have a neurodivergent child and you’re expecting them to live in your home the same way that you do, you’re draining them before they have even started their day at school.

As an interior designer, a mother and a person who craves a tidy and well appointed home, here are my top ten tips for small and simple adjustments you can implement to not only make your own life easier, but your morning routines less fraught and your children much happier:

  1. Visible Timetables on the Wall: Imagine having your day laid out visually right in front of you. For neurodivergent children, having a timetable on the wall can be a game-changer. It provides structure and helps them understand what’s coming up next, reducing anxiety and improving their ability to transition between activities. Extra points for you if it’s ‘interactive’ and they can put a star or a tick next to the activities they’ve done as they complete them.
  2. Personalised Storage Solutions: Invest in a small set of five drawers, each designated for a specific day of the week. Fill it on a Sunday with everything they need for each day, this helps in organising their belongings and gives them a sense of control and predictability, which can be incredibly comforting and limits the amount of wasted time in the mornings when they’re searching for their PE socks in a drawer full of socks…
  3. Buckets & Baskets: Let’s face it, expecting neurodivergent children to keep everything tidy all the time is a waste of your energy and an unnecessary and unrealistic expectation on them. Toys will never stay organised into the ‘correct’ places. Buckets and baskets they can chuck everything into is an easier solution and saves time and stress.
  4. Encourage Movement: ‘Stimming’ is the term used to describe the physical movements some neurodivergent children display to self soothe. Rocking back and forth, foot or finger tapping, spinning, bouncing and chinning are all common. Movements like this help children cope with sensory overload and relieve physical discomfort – but most children are told to SIT STILL and DON’T ROCK ON YOUR CHAIR. This can be incredibly difficult and overwhelming for neurodivergent children, so give them access to swing chairs, rocking chairs, meditation chairs (with knee rest), hammocks, wobble boards, and trampolines (or a mini trampette if you don’t have a garden)
  5. Sensory-Friendly Design: Encourage sensory exploration by incorporating elements like tactile surfaces, cosy nooks, and adjustable lighting. These can provide opportunities for sensory stimulation while also offering retreats for when they need a break from overwhelming sensations. Weighted blankets, silk or brushed cotton pillow cases, colour changing LED lights and lava lamps all have a soothing impact.
  6. Snack Hoard: Neurodivergent children often prefer to snack throughout the day rather than have three large meals. Their brains are functioning at another level and this can be incredibly draining. It’s often why they develop sugar addictions or sneak sweet snacks without asking. Give them a designated snack tin or drawer that is filled with healthier options such as fruit rolls, protein balls, lentil chips and cured meat snacks. It will make them feel more in control and help them to self regulate their cravings and ‘hangriness’.
  7. A Space to Let Off Steam: Whether it’s using a punchbag, playing the drums or dancing around whilst having the same song on repeat, some neurodivergent children find comfort and a sense of release from making loud noise or doing an explosive physical activity. Allow them the space to do so and encourage it, if they’ve had a difficult day a school, this can bleed into your evening if they don’t have a chance to offload.
  8. Encourage Independence: Make sure everything is within reach and easily accessible, promoting independence and self-reliance. Put their toothbrush in one of those wall mounted holders, their school bag on a peg by the door and their favourite cup on a low shelf in the cupboard.
  9. Incorporate Nature: Bringing elements of nature indoors can have a calming effect on neurodivergent children. Add potted plants, nature-themed artwork, or even a small indoor garden to connect them with the outdoors. Encourage them to grow cress on the windowsill or put a peace lily on their bedside table, which also improves air quality and will help them sleep.
  10. Create a Sense of Security: Finally, prioritise creating a space where they feel safe and secure. Living in a world that is not tailored for neurodivergence can sometimes feel threatening and scary. Creating an indoor den, or even just making space for a cocoon swing chair in the living room can dramatically improve the wellbeing of your neurodivergent child, which will also improve their behaviour, sense of self worth and give you a place to direct them too when they’re having a challenging day.

By implementing these tips, we can create environments that not only accommodate but also celebrate the unique needs and strengths of neurodivergent children. It’s time we designed spaces where every child can thrive and feel truly at home.

You can find Studio JQ on socials @thestudiojq and schedule a free consultation directly on our website

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