Little Bit of Sensory Overload

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My daughter testing out the swing. Yep, it is just as fun as it looks.

I'm going to start this post by explaining I am not an expert on children with autism. I'm not going to get into a debate on whether or not I believe in Jenny McCarthy and her magical powers and I'm not going to discuss any theories on immunizations. However,

...I'm a parent of a non-verbal autistic boy who means the world to me...

As the parent of this sweet little boy, I sometimes get disappointed with my lack of ability to find presents to entertain him in the ways my other children are entertained with games and books.

So when I was trying to figure out anything to buy him for Christmas last month, I saw a news report on a new creative space at the hospital for children with autism. The room is filled with so many wonderful machines, lights and sounds to capture the attention of children.

If you have a child with autism, you understand how frustrated some of the simplest tasks we take for granted can be to them. You may also understand how upset they can become when their frustration gets the better of them. When this happens, they need a way to calm themselves. And when they are in a good mood, they need a way to stimulate their senses.

When I saw the clip, I thought it would be so expensive to create a room with things such as fiberoptic lights and computers that work by touching the screen.

News Report Video for the Sensory Room - Click Here,0,822207.story

However, even if I didn't have the budget to create a room on the scale of the hospital, it did give me so many ideas to help transform my autistic son's room from a plain empty space into a room he can enjoy.

1) Calm Colors. The walls are a muted grey and on wall is a darker shade of grey with fun blue and green circle wall decals. Originally, I had wanted to paint a wall design on the dark grey wall, but once you see the frequent use of circles and bubbles in the space these circles just seemed perfect.

2) Lights. There were so many different types of lighting in the video to create a psychedelic vibe. I found a bubbling water lamp, a circle electric light, a night club type disco light, created a pillar of circle lanterns (stringing white Christmas lights in the middle) and I found a light bulb that changes colors for the new open overhead light.

Bubbling Light w/swimming fish
Disco Lighting - The instant I plugged this light into the wall he started dancing and laughing.
Paper Lanterns with Christmas lights inside

3) Cubby Hole. We left the bottom of his closet open. Sometimes he likes to sit in the bottom of his closet, so we created a fort with old cushions from his PB chairs. I still need to sew slipcovers for the cushions, but I put the cushions in place for now.

4) SWING!!!! Okay, this wasn't in the news report, but it is his favorite thing to do at school. I installed the swing today. I bought the supplies a couple of weeks ago, even bought an extra sturdy metal hook for rock climbers to attach the swing to the eye bolt. For some reason it took me a few weeks to work up the nerve to put the eye bolt into the beam. You don't know how relieved I was when the ceiling beam didn't crack in half and fall through the drywall when I personally tested it. Whew! The top picture shows my daughter taking it for a test drive.

5) Sturdy Platform Bed. He has destroyed several beds and mattresses from jumping on them, but never sleeps in them. We also bought king size pillows to create a mattress topper for him by sewing together a sheet. I have some fur fabric I bought to use on his throw pillows too. The platform is the same size as a twin bed, so if or when he stops jumping on mattresses we can add one on top.

Stapled a mattress pad to the edge and to the top before covering with a sheet and stapling to create the platform. Still need to create the mattress topper using a king size sheet sectioned into 5 empty spaces for 5 king size pillows.

6) Trampolines. As I said, he loves to jump. And he loves his mini trampolines and uses them more than our furniture now.

7) Pea Pod Snuggle Thingie. He loves to steal every single pillow in the house and lay under them to feel the weight. His teachers sent a weight blanket home for him to try, but he didn't like it as much as the cushions. The pea pod is to stimulate a calming feeling when he feels the pressure around his body.

Me testing the Pea Pod. It is super comfy.

8) Peanut Exercise Inflatable. He loves to balance himself on my exercise ball, so he now has his own and loves it.

9) Rubber Mats. After we installed the wood floors, we thought those square rubber type mats would be nice under his bare feet when he is jumping around.

This is the summary list of all the components that are going into his space. Obviously, I still have about 8-10 hours of sewing left on making his mattress pad pillow cover and his cubby cushions and throw pillows.

I'll post a final reveal once I finish the little details. Stay tuned.

Tomorrow I'll be working on the upstairs hallway again. I hope to at least give you a peek of the colors and the new trim.

Thank you for stopping by my blog. Please follow on facebook or twitter to receive updates.

And a special thanks to those of you who sent emails asking when I'd be back. I promise you will be seeing me more and more.

Much love,

Linked to:

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The Shabby Creek Cottage


  1. This is amazing. I bet your son feels like he hit the parents lotto every time he goes in here.

  2. I hope so :) Everyone has been in his room today playing on the swing. Myself included. He loves it and so does everyone else. So relaxing.

  3. Your son is so very lucky to have a Mom like you. All of your children are, for that matter. You spend so much time and energy making their home a beautiful and comfortable place, and their rooms comforting to them.

  4. Thank you Susan. Your comments always make me smile. :)

  5. Hi, as a mom of a now adult son with autism I applaud your efforts to make him a special space. It's so hard to figure out what is best, they don't sll like same stim or calm. He is one lucky boy to have such a loving hard-working mom.

  6. This is so wonderful. As a studying school psychologist, I've found that there is nothing that can replace parental involvement. Taking the time to really understand what would service your son the best is absolutely invaluable and he is lucky to have a mom like you!

  7. I appreciate your kind words Janet & Maria. If I could hug you guys through the internet, I would. xoxo

  8. Wow Karen! You've out done yourself! Those are all creative and thoughtful ideas and so helpful. Our church is researching ways they could improve their room for our autistic friends. Glad your back:)

  9. Hi Shawn. It's great to slowly get back in the swing of things. Your church sounds amazing for doing that for the kiddos. I always enjoy reading your kind words. Thanks!

  10. Can't wait to see the finished room! My youngest daughter also has Autism and I don't know what we would do without her trampoline and bouncy ball! Your son is blessed to have such a Warrior Mom! Keep up the great work!

  11. @Jolene Thank you so much. I heard him in his room the other morning swinging before we were awake. I'm glad he has his own retreat now. I hope to finish the little touches shortly so I can share it.

  12. Stumbled onto your blog and just wanted to show yous some blog luv! def enjoyed this post :)

  13. Great job by a loving mom! It looks like a great room for ANY kid, but especially for a child with autism. Shoot, I want one of the bouncy peanut things! The swing and the pea pod look fun, too.

  14. Karen u never cease to amaze me with not only.your talents but your beautiful love and devotion to him. I admire and applaud you. I want to buy one of those chairs myself for my Alex who is high adhd and we are going to test for it

  15. How blessed your son is to have such a caring mom! I know almost nothing about autism, except that even the professionals don't know enough about it. I think it's wonderful that you have put so much time and love into creating an environment to help your son have a safe place to grow and learn. I found you from Shabby Creek Cottage, and just had to send good wishes and blessings for your family!