Friday, April 11, 2014

Creating Safe, Inspiring Havens/ Decorating for Magic/ How to make the Home Calm for Autistics

*This post is for ANYONE (after the first two paragraphs), but I especially wrote it with the Autism Scale and Sensory Needs in Mind.*

Each Autistic is unique with a certain set of interests, obsessions and comforts. Therefore creating an Autistic Safe Haven can be highly individual, but there are some standard tricks that work for MOST Autistics. First off you need to pay attention to a few key factors in creating security:
1: What do you (if you are the Autistic) or your Autistic loved one value?
2: What are the top three interests of this individual? (A general theme is usually better than embracing all styles for homes in each room.)
3:What behaviours of comfort or security does this person engage in, when upset? Do they cover themselves with a blanket? Do they hide in the closet? Do they scream until they can't stop? This information will give clues as to what will set their minds at ease during stress and conflict.
4: What foods, textures and smells spin them into a meltdown? What foods, textures and smells calm them down?
Now apply this information along with some basic guidelines. It may take some sleuthing but it is worth the time and effort.

The first step in creating a home with maximum benefits for Autistics is security. If we are continually feeling threatened then we can never move into our maximum benefits. Here are some key factors that have worked for my children and I.
*Do not invite people into your home that you or your children feel massive social anxiety about or who do not respect most of your decisions in life. Our house is open once a month to some people in our community, but we make sure to keep most guests to a minimum. We love to share our haven with those who truly love and respect us but it still has to be on our time and with respect to our children. Social anxiety is a big deal and we need to feel safe in our own homes because everywhere else we are forced to participate.*

From The Outside
*I need to feel safe, so we have heavy locks on our outdoors and window locks that make me feel better about life. I also have heavy "light- blocking" blinds on most of the windows. One day I would like to add outdoor shutters for storms ect.
*Gardens (suited to allergy triggers of course) that are appealing and provide secret hideaways and magical pathways for the imagination are huge factors in peace and tranquility. Plus, learning how to care and nurture plants adds to the value of life. It's good for the mind and soul of anyone but most Autistics especially benefit from a cozy yet safe place in nature. (I recommend the book Front Yard Gardens. See my Library for link.) Keep gloves around that fit well and lotion as we do not appreciate our hands being dry or dirty on most days. Choose plants that are low maintenance but beautiful. Limit exposure by having set times of day to go out and creating nooks and shaded areas for creative play. Keep it clean and safe. No chemicals should be used on anything as Autistics are especially sensitive to these toxins in their bodies, and dangerous tools should be locked up from children. ( This seems obvious but I am always surprised at what is left in yards for kids to find. Not only does this put me on edge for their safety, but it also increases their risk of injury.) An old fashioned grass chopper is more ideal than a motored lawn mower and the kids can help while working their muscles. Put Dill in somewhere as my kids love to chew on dill and the smell is calming for them.

On the Inside: Room By Room:

But first About PLANTS:

IF you can, every room should be home to a few plants. This is crucial for well being and levels of toxicity...that especially Autistics are sensitive to. We used to kill every living plant in our home and now it is an inside garden. Usually three plants will do better than one as they feed off each other and make better oxygen. Don't start off with one but three. A few types that are hardy are tropical, toxic ones, if you have cats don't do these but otherwise AWESOME air purifiers and detox workers, Cactus (Esp if you are prone to forget watering) and spider plants. Its all about the light, water and quantity. They need a drink of water in a new environment and a little more care the first few weeks. In general most types of plants do better if they are slightly moist after the first good water and not watered until dry. So once a week about but they will live if you forget occasionally. Make it part of the chore list. Southern light is usually the best with our plants but a few types flourish more in Northern or Western/ eastern. I would say try for the south light and if they do not do well move them around until they seem happy. Plants are kind of like people...As ridiculous as that sounds...I see mine as living breathing beauty and when one is not happy I move it around, re pot it with better soil or give it more water until it breathes life again. It took me awhile to get to this stage:) Also, if it has bugs some spray of soapy water should do the trick.,,191977,00.html

There are so many benefits of plants and after awhile plants in the house are barely even work...once you get used to them. In fact I find a lot of joy from tending them when needed and my kids adore them. They follow by my example and often argue about who gets to spritz the plants with water.

Entry: If shoes are exposed on shelves an earthy toned or "calm" coloured curtain will help make the mess feel less intrusive. If the entry is full of sunlight add some plants in higher places. The Entry gives the tone of the home, if it feels welcoming, the rest of the house will eventually follow. We have a huge window above our door that lets in an abundance of light but it was often too harsh for us, plus it felt like people could still see in our every fall we collect dried leaves and press them into wax paper and tape it up. It's beautiful, filters in light wonderfully, and gives us privacy. My kids love to participate in making it. I am not crafty. I enjoy decorating and collages but I despise crafts, but this is easy. All you need is wax paper, tape, dryish leaves and an iron.


Smells and odours contribute to an Autistic's sense of well being. I choose soaps that are "happy smells to us" with low toxicity. If we are low on money I just buy a regular Emu Oil Soap for washing. Minus the lavendar and tea tree essential oils we use, our house is generally fragrance free. Occasionally we will boil cinnamon on the stove top to add scent and clean our air (but we have forgotten this a time or two and ruined pots...put  2 0r 3 sticks of cinnamon in four or so cups of water,  on the absolute minimum setting and set the timer for two hours to turn it off and immediately rinse the pot.)
I find COLOUR is EXTREMELY important for Autistics.* Some prefer differing tones, but we must all stay away from anything with greyish hues, too green or too blue as we are more likely to act out or get depressed. IF you are to go yellow choose a gold/yellow to decrease sickly feelings. I try to stick to a fairly earthy palate with bold walls thrown in for fun. In our bathroom I chose Browns and an Inspiring shower curtain. I loved this curtain until I ruined in in the wash, and have not found one that makes me as happy since...But it really does make a difference in well being. Also remove all toxic cleaners. We only clean our bathrooms with tea tree oil/lavender spray and vinegar. This has cut down on A LOT of illnesses. We also do not buy shampoos with sulphates or parabens because of the adverse affects we experience.

 Living Room:
 I like a lot of colour. We live in a place that is WHITE 8 months out of the year so our eyes are starving for colour. However, if I lived in a warm, green climate I would choose light colours for a fresh feeling. Colour really depends on your climate and preference although it is best to stay away from aggravating colours. Click here ( ) or  find other links on colour psychology. We do not use blue very much in our home because of the long winters. My rule is to not keep anything that makes me or the kids feel edgy...or anything that bugs me. I get rid of all decor that does not feel beautiful or useful. Most of the stuff in my house are sentimental items from others, cozy blankets, and comfort beauty.

I also use pieces that are meant for other "uses" as decor items. If it makes me happy, I use it, however I want. Our house is all about comfort and magic.
We especially like light catchers. LIGHT is crucially important to well being. We love to watch the rainbows from these dance in our living room. Any Autistic will appreciate the subtle dance of light. I hang them from tacks above my window with fishing wire and a fishing knot...we collect these wherever we can find them.

Everything on my walls has meaning. I am obsessed with the Broadway Musical Wicked and my husband is obsessed with Lord of The Rings so we incorporate those obsessions into our home. In our children's rooms we honour what they are obsessed with. (If you like the patchwork quilts in our home like the Wicked one and the Christmas ones on the back of couches please see this site: K made my quilts and they are so beautiful.)

My kids have never tried to remove any items in the house, even at a young age. They grew up surrounded by these inspiring items and respected them. I never had an issue with them. Some say our house is not child proof but every child I have had in my home loves and respects it. It is very rare for them to take an item out of place and when they do, I let them. It is supposed to be lived in. However, often they do not feel the need as I have many magical books and toys to distract them. Children LOVE our home. We are also obsessed with books, so we make sure to keep the books that inspire us or are magical or written well and give away the ones that do not.

Cushions and blankets are very important to Autistics. I ask for throws and pillows at Christmas. Gradually we have transformed our living spaces into magically infused havens. It has taken some work and creativity. We are under the poverty line but I manage to get a lot of things given to me, we use second hand furniture and I shop at thrift stores or antique markets. I ONLY bring home that which I truly love and when I splurge I spurge on lighting and plants and books.  I cover up old boxes with blankets or fabrics to use as shelves ect.

The Kitchen:

We are not exactly cooks so our kitchen is not used a ton for cooking major meals. We eat simply with gluten, diary, sugar free alternatives. In our kitchen we have the same cleaners as the bathroom. I am a rule breaker. I believe if it is lovely to you and it works- DO IT. So I use fabrics and store books in my kitchen. However, I make sure these things are away from water sources and the stove. I scoured Buy and Sell and Kijiji for second hand items ( the hutch, small island and stools, chairs and mirrors were all second hand finds.)

The Star light was from a Thousand Villages to support third world labour. It is in the far corner of my kitchen and I use the buffet in my kitchen to store books as we only keep the very basic and minimum amount of dishes that we need. This helps us all feel less overloaded. We are not overloaded with our walls and stuff because it is what we enjoy. Do what YOU enjoy. Filtered water, supplements and tea are staples. Autistic gut is not a laughing matter. Healthy water is important and we often need a dietary support.


Bedrooms depends on each person.  But the standard issues for MOST Autistics are : Colour, lighting and cozy hide outs. We make sure that in each room there is a secluded place where the child can hide or retreat. It usually is a small space with comfortable items. This is akin to Temple Grandin's squeeze machine but not as obvious when they have friends over ect. It just looks like a hide away. Pretty, sparkly items that reflect light are important to both my boys and my daughter.

When the children were under five they all shared a sleeping room and had a playroom next door. I wish I would have kept that longer as it worked beautifully but I caved into the pressure from peers and family to give them each their own room based on gender. I regret that. My daughter STILL asks to sleep in her brothers room every night ( she is eleven.) I realized that with anxiety disorders and Autism, they were better off having nights together and playtime in the bedroom next door. We now allow them to sleep in each other's rooms whenever they wish and I do not believe this damages them in any way. My daughter now has our old room as we have renovated our basement:

 My eldest son loves space. This was his half of the room before:

 He wanted a canopy like my daughter had...and I realized most boys really appreciate canopies, so I saved for his birthday. His quilt was his only Christmas present from us one year and he was very happy with it. I prepared him by getting him to help pick it out, telling him the cost and what it would mean if he obtained it (no other Christmas presents) and how special it would be if he actually received it. He was ecstatic at Christmas.

Our children receive enough toys from grandparents at Christmas and Birthdays, so we often buy them room stuff as gifts for our budget. In the long run it pays off in their emotional safety and comfort. I find that comforters, wall stickers and paint are the main items in a room worth paying for and if invested in and chosen wisely, they usually last a long time.
My other son loves animals. This was his half:

 This was the playroom before they had separate rooms. I really wish I would have kept this arrangement longer. We all loved this room:
 The "shelf" the toys are sitting on is an old water bed top I found at a garage sale for five bucks. I asked the lady if I could just have it without the frame as I immediately saw the use in it. Now that we do not have a playroom it is actually the red fabric coloured item in the kitchen pictures.

 As you can see, every toy was out and in sight. I do not believe in storing a large amount of toys. They are out in the open as options but I try to do it so it is not overwhelming. My eldest son prefers his toys to be categorized in boxes with his lego spread out on tables. This is what we do for him. It depends on the child. I NEVER get rid of any toys that are sentimental because this causes huge meltdowns. It may seem insignificant to me, but it could be a big comfort to them. However, we also have quarterly cleaning out times where we sift through excess stuff. I believe this teaches them discernment. It is important, if doing this, to constantly communicate and explain the feelings of each person as they get rid of stuff. Autistics need more time to process.

 This colour for our bedroom ( I do not have pictures but this picture below is our exact colours and bedding ) is Benjamin Moore Farm Fresh. It looks peachy and does not work in south facing rooms but in North facing it is like a sunset. I don't like peach but this with browns is gorgeous and the most calm colour I have ever experienced on the wall. I am glad I tried it. Most people love it in my room and find it like a warm sunset.

Our House is a Hobbit Hole in many ways. With tended gardens, comfortable blankets, low lights, classic stuffies, magical books, and not many interruptions. If I don't like a picture I change it. I buy a higher quality magazine full of pictures I love and make a collage. Music is also important for both our plants, and our family:) We make sure to get a little bit of everything. My eldest son hates all music and needs quiet time. My daughter prefers pop and classical. My youngest likes old rock. I love everything except classical gets on my nerves after ten minutes. We all take turns with music or each put on headphones with our own devices. There is also plenty of quiet time with all electronics turned off. But electronics are also key to Autistics communication, so we do not ban electronics in general.

Laundry Room:
Using a natural brand of detergent like 7th generation or at Costco you can purchase Ecos Laundry detergent or Lavender Kirkland Naturals is crucial to overall health. Regular laundry detergents contain harmful ingredients like parabens, phthalates, phosphates, NPEs/APEs and more that can cause allergic reactions, irritation and even cancer. Use a fragrance free Bounce or a Ball for the dryer for static. My children HATE tags so we cut them out and we only buy fabrics that they are comfortable with. They are involved in picking out their clothes with some guidance. We want them to feel at their optimal. I find the same rules apply to myself. I actually like to buy at a place like Plato's Closet or Consignment where the clothes are already shrunk and worn in so I know which I will love (plus designer items are cheaper.) I made the mistake of buying fabric has caused light rashes on each of us...try to be as natural as possible.

What is important to me will not be important to you perhaps, but I recommend keeping colour, lighting, music, plants, toxicity, socialization, security and inspiration as the top ingredients to an Autistic haven. Also keeping all the senses in mind and feeding the senses with the least upsetting scents/feelings/sights and sounds.

Questions or Suggestions? What am I missing that works for you?

I love this song. 80's rock is my ultimate feel good music genre...and this is how I feel when I decorate my house:)


musingsofanaspie said...

Wow! I think your home is gorgeous! So welcoming and colorful and homey. You’re a decorator, right?

Okay, now that I’m done gushing over your house, I love the post. It’s so cool the way you went room by room detailing all of the big and small elements that are important to your space. And it’s really interesting to me to see how many beautiful things you surround yourself with because my house is the exact opposite. It’s almost spartan in its simplicity (we sold about 95% of our possessions when we moved 2 years ago, part mid-life cleansing and part “I’m not paying to move all this cross country”) and that suits me perfectly.

Kmarie Jones said...

Thanks:) LOL- I would not want to move all my stuff! I get that:) And some personalities find more calm with nothing on the walls but a calming, inspiring colour and perhaps some plants or one thing of art. I decorate as a hobby and will help friends on occasion, but generally its an obsessive interest in my own home. I do it instead of art when I am bored I change a room around:) I also seem to have an eye for the details and balance…

S said...

Thank you for sharing all the photographs, Kmarie. Your home has a welcoming spirit and a lived in feel to it. Just like you, I also find it cosy ! I can see how much you care for every room of yours...there is a personal touch in all the rooms...every object, every plant, book, fabric...has been put on with so much care and with so much thought can be seen ...I believe that a home must reflect one's personality and your home represents your spirit and personality. The fact that you and your family feel peace and quiet in the rooms- that is the most important thing- to come back to a home which makes you never go out again and stay there forever...that should be the essence of a home...when I look at my home, I think that I wish I would never leave my gives me that kind of a safe feeling.
By reading your post, I am reminded of the times in my childhood and youth. I had some shutdowns...I did not like bright light and loud noise ( even the t.v. noise was too much for me ) ...I loved silence even at that time...but I did not know how to make my home comfortable for my sensitivity. My mom did her best by decorating the house but still, I was not aware what was I lacking.But now I know and do my best. I love mild fragrances, aromatic soaps and oils, plants, dim/ low lights and soft music...also flowers...mild coloured fabrics...books ..particularly spiritual books so that I can read them when I feel overwhelmed...
Thanks again for sharing this post,

Kmarie Jones said...

Thanks S! That is what I go for:) I am glad you find it cozy...I wish you could have tea with me sometime in it! I would love to see your home too as I love what you do with your pictures. Thank you for noticing the personal touch and that it DOES reflect my personality.
I understand the childhood moments...your house sounds lovely :) I would LOVE mild coloured fabrics in warmer climates:) I always love the pile of books you have in your pictures:)
Thanks for commentating:)