Creating a Calmer Home:

Sensory-Friendly Living for Neurodiverse Families 

Having that special place to call home is what we all deserve. For neurodiverse families, creating a calm space amongst external chaos is fundamental in supporting a sensory-friendly living zone. For those who are neurodiverse, it’s important for their environment to be well-considered for maximum comfort, unique to their needs.

Neurodivergent individuals, particularly those with autism, can be over or under-responsive to sensory stimulation. Those who are over-responsive (hypersensitive) or under-responsive (hyposensitive) to one sense does not necessarily mean they’ll have the same response to all senses. In fact, it’s possible to experience a combination of both, which, of course, can affect what it means to create a sensory-friendly home.

No one knows your child better than you do, and what works for some might not work for you. So, let’s explore a range of options that may help you to make your home just right for your family.

Pay Attention to Smells

Sensory overload can occur when an individual becomes overstimulated by one or multiple senses. Cleaning products, candles, foods and fragranced products such as shampoo and shower gel can be a challenge for hypersensitive children.

You may want to reconsider the products you’re using around the home and see if there is a particular smell that is more triggering. There are plenty of fragrance-free cleaning and hygiene products available, which might be alternatives worth exploring.

Opt for Calming Colours

Most children have a favourite colour (even if the answer changes weekly!). Depending on if your child is over or under-responsive, though, they might love or loathe anything bright.

There are, however, colours proven to have a calming effect. Sky blue, pastel pink and grey are renowned for this, so you may want to consider how these can play a role in your home décor.

Consider Lighting

Lighting can affect our mood, regardless of being neurotypical or neurodiverse. However, for neurodiverse families, keeping a check on lighting levels is essential. If your child loves bright light and is demonstrating sensory-seeking behaviour, they need to be aware of not staring directly at the sun. Instead, consider the use of interactive, sensory light toys around the home.

Many neurodivergent people are also sensitive to flickering lights and reflections. Keep an eye out around the home to double-check for this to avoid your child becoming overwhelmed.

Predictability is Key

Predictability creates more control for those who are neurodivergent. Keeping your home organised, therefore, will help minimise stress and make for a calmer household. The first step to improving predictability around the home is to ensure everything has a designated place. You might be fine for the contents of your drawers to be full of “stuff” but not being specific about where things should be can cause undue anxiety. You may also want to consider the effect that moving or replacing items of furniture in your home may have on your child, as this would make the home environment less predictable.

Clutter-Free Zone

Neurodiverse conditions such as ADHD can make it difficult to maintain a tidy space. A cluttered environment can make symptoms worse and begin to get in the way of homework or other activities, and impact on one’s overall feeling of comfort or relaxation. 

Encourage clean-up time by creating a visual cleaning chart with pictures to help your child clearly see what your expectations are. This might include putting toys away, returning household items to their rightful place, taking the rubbish out or folding clothes. Encourage the rest of the family to get involved, ensuring everyone has a responsibility to keep the clutter at bay and to contribute towards a peaceful environment.

A Space to Call Their Own

What’s a home without fun, laughter and a little bit of mayhem? But it’s also important that part of your sensory-friendly space involves somewhere for your child to have downtime. While you can take measures to make the entire home as sensory-friendly as possible, it’s also great if you can offer your child a dedicated space that they can truly call their own.

This will likely be their bedroom but if they share a room, perhaps you can suggest a quiet zone downstairs that they and the rest of the family know they can retreat to when necessary.

Creating a calmer, sensory-friendly home doesn’t mean taking on an overwhelming renovation. It just requires you to think about all of the senses and find small ways to accommodate them according to the needs of those living in the home. These can range from small tweaks like adding or removing a light, painting a bedroom wall, or replacing highly perfumed products. Or, it may simply mean swapping out a product or two. With an open mind, open communication, and an awareness of how your loved ones experience their neurodiversity, you can’t go wrong in making your home a sensory-friendly haven for all.