It’s important to accept that a normal home might not be safe or comfortable for a child with special needs. Most of the time, modifications must be made that ensure the child has the opportunity to be mobile and self-sufficient. “Home Modification” may sound like a scary, expensive task - but in reality there are plenty of reasonable, economical, and even eco-friendly ways to fit your house for someone with special needs.
Sensory modifications - Some children with special needs such as autism spectrum disorders have more sensory issues than true mobility, but can also require some unique home modifications. Some great tips for this include the removal of fluorescent lighting (you can replace them with the far more eco-friendly LED lights) and the use of soundproof materials for floors and walls. Colors are also important.
“Notice the colors your child pays the most attention to, and use those colors when you really want your child to pay attention to something. For example, you could decorate your home with very neutral colors, but use plates in their favorite color to make eating more interesting. Use learning toys with bright colors. Or pick a more exciting color for a comforting blanket or special stuffed animal,” according to NavigateLifeTexas.org. “Think about using sound-reducing materials in places where you spend a lot of time.”
Ramps and flooring - Many special needs are of the physical variety, and stairs can be a challenge for children with movement disorders, injury, or visual impairment. Even if your special needs child isn’t in a wheelchair, ramps might be essential to their improved mobility. Portable ramps are a great product because of their versatility.
A cool alternative to the large, sometimes expensive metal ramps used with wheelchairs to navigate living spaces, are lightweight mobility aids like the ones made by Adaptive Design. The company also specializes in art, recreation, self-care, and other products for children with impairments - all made with eco-friendly products like recycled cardboard.
If you have the resources and your special needs child needs access to different levels of your home, you can look into installing a stair glide mechanism or even a small elevator.
When it comes to flooring, it’s important to think about the material. According to Michael Sledd of Expertise.com, “Cork flooring is often very stylish looking and easy to clean, and while it is firm and level, it is more forgiving to falls than many of the other flooring types mentioned above. However, due to its soft nature, it is typically not recommended for wheelchairs due to wear issues from the amount of pressure exerted by the wheels.
Vinyl and linoleum are the cheapest and somewhat accessible. For homes that need to accommodate wheelchairs, you may want to avoid deep grooved tile.
Modified knobs, handles, and railings - Replacing traditional doorknobs, cabinet, and drawer handles with easier-to-pull levers can help with accessibility around the home. Providing extra grips, handrails, and bars around stairs, bathrooms, and kitchens can also help those with a disability better navigate the home.
Trackers - Though it might be a controversial topic for some, many parents of children with special needs employ GPS trackers to make sure they always know what their child is up to and where they are. Here’s a good write-up on some of the best services available.
Accessibility Technology - Check out the Accessible Technology Coalition’s archives for a list of assistive technologies organized by age, type of disability, and more. There are so many products for the home that can make life easier for kids with disabilities and their caretakers.
For more ideas on how to make your home safe for all children, and to find great home projects, visit DadKnowsDIY.com.