10 Sensory Room Ideas for Children with Autism

By raluca.olariu@…, 8 March, 2022
boy wearing headphones

Children with autism experience a wide range of symptoms, including sensory processing difficulties. Sensory overload may happen often due to the child’s inability to process information in an organized way and can lead to anxiety or avoidance behaviors.

Sensory rooms are designed to help children with autism learn how to regulate their emotions by reducing stress and anxiety. The goal is to provide a calm environment where they can be free from distractions that might trigger unwanted behavior.

This article will discuss ten ideas for creating a sensory room for your autistic child. You'll find out what you need to know about sensory rooms, why they're important, and how to create one at home.

Sensory challenges for children with autism spectrum disorder

The diagnostic criteria for autism include hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input. This means that children on the autism spectrum have difficulty regulating their emotional responses to stimuli such as sounds, touch, movement, sights, tastes, smells, and textures.

Alleged unconcern to pain, adverse reaction to certain sounds or textures, or being visually immersed with lights are some symptoms of sensory issues.

To help manage this anxiety and sensory overloads, sensory experiences that include sensory rooms have been created and seem to be beneficial.

"Although small randomized controlled trials resulted in positive effects for sensory integration therapies, additional rigorous trials using manualized protocols for sensory integration therapy are needed to evaluate effects for children with autism spectrum disorders and sensory processing problems."  

What is a sensory room?

A sensory room is an area where children can be free to explore their environment without being overwhelmed by sounds, sights, or smells. It’s also called a ‘quiet place’ because it has been designed to provide a calm and relaxing atmosphere. A sensory room should have soft lighting, soothing music, no windows, and low noise levels.

Sensory rooms are becoming increasingly popular in schools as well as homes. They help children who struggle with sensory processing issues such as autism, ADHD, anxiety, and depression.

Sensory room toys are also used to teach children with autism about different textures and materials. They also help them develop social skills as well as increase attention span. 

Stay tuned for ten ideas for creating your own sensory room, suitable for both young and old. The best thing about these ideas is that they don’t require any special equipment. You just need some paint, some wallpaper, and some creativity.

What are the benefits of a sensory room for kids?

Children with autism often experience sensory overload when exposed to loud noises, bright lights,  strong odors, or other sensory stimuli. This makes them feel anxious and uncomfortable. In addition, they may not understand why they are feeling so bad.

By providing a quiet, safe space for them to relax, you give them the opportunity to learn how to cope better with everyday situations.

The goal of a sensory room is to create a safe haven where children can enjoy themselves while still learning new skills. The main benefits of sensory rooms for autistic kids are:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Increased focus and attention
  • Better sleep patterns
  • More positive behavior
  • Fewer meltdowns

Why does creating a sensory room at school matter?

One of the most important things parents can do for their child with autism is to ensure they receive the right services from early on. One of those services is sensory spaces at school.

According to a study within Muskegon County NSU, sensory room interventions seem to increase students' engagement in education activities by 56%.

When children start attending regular classes, they begin to develop social skills. However, if they are struggling with sensory processing, then they might find it difficult to interact with other students.

Creating a sensory room at school allows children to practice social interactions in a controlled environment. It helps teachers identify problems before they become serious enough to interfere with academic progress.

It also gives parents peace of mind knowing that their child is getting the support he needs.

10 ideas for creating a sensory room

1. Paint the walls blue. In color science, blue is considered calming and relaxing. According to various surveys, the color blue is also highly associated with harmony, confidence, and faithfulness. So, painting the walls blue in your sensory room can be an effective way to calm down your child.

2. Use calming images. Calming images like flowers, butterflies, and clouds make a sensory room more inviting and more efficient at reducing stress. If you want to use pictures, make sure they are simple and have no text. 

3. Add plants. Plants can help reduce stress and anxiety by absorbing negative energy. However, you need to first make sure your kid is not allergic to plants.

4. Create a calming scent. Essential oils are known to help reduce stress and anxiety. They can also improve concentration and memory. To create a soothing scent, mix together equal parts lavender oil, lemon balm oil, and rosemary oil. You can use an oil diffuser to diffuse the smell throughout the entire room.

Related: Are Essential Oils Safe for Kids?

5. Keep the temperature consistent. If possible, keep the temperature in your sensory room between 68°F and 72°F (20°C and 22°C). Research shows that this range works best for people who struggle with sensory issues.  

6. Add a waterfall. Waterfalls are soothing and relaxing and can help to reduce stress and anxiety. The sound of water flowing through the air is very pleasing to our ears. A great way to incorporate a waterfall into your sensory room is to buy a small fountain or put a bucket under a faucet.

7. Cover windows. Covering windows prevents light from entering your room, which makes sensory overload easier to handle and manage. Lower amounts of light plus a sense of intimacy may help children better regulate their emotions.

8. Use tactile pillows. Some children find textures comforting and can regulate their emotions better through feel and texture. Tactile pillows are a great way to integrate textures into a sensory room.

9. Have accessible storage bins. Children with autism may experience sensory overload by getting overwhelmed with too much stuff. That's why having accessible storage bins can help them clear their space and organize their toys easier.

You might also like: How to Make Decluttering Your Child's Room Fun.

10. Play soothing sounds or music. Music has been proven to increase focus and attention. Playing soothing music can help kids relax and relieve stress.

The impact of sensory design on autistic behavior

Sensory design is an effective intervention because it teaches children about the world around them. For example, when children are exposed to different textures, they gain knowledge about what types of surfaces feel rough or smooth.

This helps them understand how objects affect their bodies. In turn, this helps them better regulate their own emotions.

Children with autism often struggle with self-regulation, the ability to manage their own emotions, which is very important. By teaching them about the physical sensations involved in regulating emotion, sensory rooms can help them learn these skills.

Sensory rooms can make a big difference for children with autism, providing a fun, risk-free sensory space where they can feel safe and better equipped to regulate their emotions.  

Photo credit: Unsplash