Many kids on the autism spectrum experience sensory-seeking behaviors. Whether it's an irresistible urge for movement, contact or physical manipulation of something, the sensory input from those actions can be soothing and may help ease anxieties. To help reduce the risk of impulsive behaviors, why not turn that cluttered, unused garage space into a sensory-stimulating safe zone for your child? Here's a look at some of the things you should consider to tackle this project with confidence.
Start With a Clean Out
Before you can start the actual design of the space, you'll need to clean out the garage. This step is essential, because any errant tools, debris or hardware left behind can pose safety hazards for kids who are sensory-seeking but don't understand safety limitations and injury risks. Cleaning out the space gives you a safe, blank canvas to work from. Since this step likely means disposing of a lot of stuff, you might want to think about investing in a rental dumpster to collect everything in. You'll probably want either a 15-yard or 20-yard dumpster to ensure that you have space for any belongings you're discarding as well as the waste material from the remodel.
Work with a dumpster rental company (like ESP Dumpsters & Waste Services) that can deliver and remove it for you. Just make sure that you understand the weight limits and the safe loading instructions. Don't fill the dumpster over the top rail. If it gets full, call for pickup and have them deliver an empty one. In addition, talk with the company about what kinds of waste material you can put into the dumpster and what's prohibited. In most cases, things like paint and automotive oil are not permitted because they need to be disposed of differently for environmental safety.
Make Sure It Is Safe
Once everything is out of the garage, you can do a complete safety audit. You don't want any exposed wires, outlets, plugs or other materials. Add some cushioned wall panels for even more safety. You can create cushioned panels that will sit over the existing walls to make the whole process easier. Make them easily detachable by using brackets so that you can get to the wiring and such when necessary.
Add Sensory Objects
The goal of a multi-sensory room is to fill it with objects that stimulate all of the senses. Large glitter tubes filled with thick water and suspended glitter are great for visual tracking and stimulation. Building blocks are good for textile stimulation and for practicing motor skills. For kids who are drawn to soft things, create a corner that includes large pillows, feather mattresses and the like.
Some kids even like to have sheer curtains hanging in the room so that they can feel them and move them. If your garage is large enough, consider putting a small indoor trampoline in there as well. Paired with a weighted ball and similar objects, your child will have the opportunity to explore a variety of different features, textures, and items. The indoor trampoline helps to stimulate movement, as would a large balance ball.
Install a Sound System
Calming, soothing sounds are great for putting kids at ease, and for kids with auditory sensitivities, soft background noise can help make the whole space more comforting. Consider adding a built-in sound system with speakers installed throughout the garage. Then, you can play sounds like rain water, soft chimes or something like that to create a subtle, whole-room sound that calms your child while they explore.
There's no reason to let your garage space gather dust when you can put it to use with plans like this. Talk with a local dumpster rental company about how much waste you'll likely have to ensure that you get the right size dumpster. To find sensory equipment like what's mentioned here, talk with a local therapist or autism awareness center. They can connect you with a supplier for any specialty items that you want to put in the space.