(REWRITE) Calming Sensory Room Ideas for Autism & SPD

Cam Russo
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(REWRITE) Calming Sensory Room Ideas for Autism & SPD (REWRITE) Calming Sensory Room Ideas for Autism & SPD

A sensory room? What's that?

Picture a room painted in cool colors and bathed in soft lights. The furniture and fixtures are carefully selected to fit the room’s purpose.

You’ll find lava lamps, bubble tubes, and floor couches, creating a relaxing atmosphere.

One side can be a place of activity. Bouncing or medicine balls for exercise, a whiteboard, a Lego wall, crash pads or mats, and interactive panels provide different sensory inputs.

There’s music playing loud enough to excite or calm listeners.

Even the floor is specially designed. There are area rugs, and the foam tiles are soft and interactive.

These are like giant jigsaw puzzles so kids can have fun while they are on the floor.

Yes, it’s a place for kids. People create sensory rooms primarily for children with special needs.

*Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links.

What is a Sensory Room?

sensory room example

A sensory room is a sensory space designed for kids with disabilities or disorders, specifically those with ASD and SPD. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that creates social and behavioral challenges for people living with it.

Individuals with ASD learn and interact differently from most people. They can either be high-functioning and gifted, or seriously challenged.

Autistic children find it hard to socialize and communicate.

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has problems with sensory inputs resulting in trouble responding to these.

Children with SPD may be oversensitive to touch, lights and sounds. They are uncoordinated and find difficulty playing.

A sensory room aims to control sensory input so that these children will have a comfortable space while learning or playing.

These rooms may either stimulate or relax the senses to provide support for individuals developing their sensory skills.

Sensory rooms are not a new concept- they were invented in the Netherlands by psychologists Ad Verheul and Jan Hulsegge in the late seventies.

Their work with people suffering from severe disabilities led to the idea of the sensory room.

Their primary purpose was to provide a venue to help these individuals adapt to their surroundings by combining play and sensory experiences.

Everything in a sensory room, from sensory swings to lighting, has a specific purpose.

Each provides sensory experiences that help children with ASD and SPD learn and cope with the world around them when they use their five senses.

Sensory rooms also provide quiet spaces, so children with ASD can enjoy learning without distractions in school classrooms.   

The Importance of Sensory Spaces

https://youtu.be/T9j6rQ4rtQY
  1. Sensory rooms provide children with ASD or SPD quiet spaces which help them focus.
  2. These rooms are better equipped for children with special needs.  
  3. It’s an excellent learning, relaxing and therapeutic environment.
  4. These rooms help children develop skills and also learn to manage emotions.
  5. It’s a perfect setting where kids can socialize with others without difficulties.

What Color to Paint a Sensory Room?

Before you choose colors for a sensory room, find out its primary purpose. Is it for activity or relaxation?

Some colors address both, while others enliven or soothe the senses.

Here are some suggestions on what colors to paint your sensory room!

Neutral Colors

Children with ASD see colors with more intensity. Neutral colors should be your first choice. To most people, these are bland, lack vibrancy, or are boring.

For individuals with sensory impairments, these are calming or, at the very least, reduce visual stimulation.

Neutral colors can be variants of blue, green, pink, orange, or violet.

Also, consider brown, tan, and gray.

Most paint manufacturers like PPG and Hunker have product lines specifically for sensory rooms. They are supportive of the needs of individuals with ASD.

Green Colors  

Green is a versatile choice because it can serve multiple purposes. It represents both serenity and recreation. It also reflects nature, luck, and good health!

Blue Colors

Blue evokes feelings of calm. It’s commonly associated with bodies of water, particularly the ocean. Temper the intensity of your blues because its brightest shade can be harmful.

White Colors

White reflects light and represents purity. It’s an excellent backdrop for fixtures, lava lamps, bubble tubes, and interactive panels.

Black Colors

Black absorbs light and serves as a backdrop for various lighting. It’s also the color choice when creating a dark-room effect.

Purple Colors

Purple is a soothing color that connects to the subconscious mind.

Pink Colors

Pink, when muted, has a calming effect.

Negative Sensory Room Colors

Remember that children with ASD might associate colors with past unpleasant experiences. For example, white might remind a visit to the hospital or the dental office.

Now, the following colors could be used sparingly, but in general, it's best to avoid them...

Red Colors  

Red is hot and vibrant. It stimulates the senses and is the choice color for activity. Children with ASD see red as fluorescent and is often overwhelming for their processing.

Red is more suitable for small objects.

Yellow Colors

Yellow is associated with the sun and is an alternative to red. This color represents fun, laughter, and excitement. Again, limit the use of the color yellow to small toys, as it could be overstimulating for children's senses.

How to Find the Right Sensory Room Color

You can employ tools like Sherwin-Williams's ColorSnap Visualizer. Upload your sensory room photo.

With 1,700 colors to choose from, you can virtually paint the walls and see which colors best suit your needs.

Painting your room white is best if you use light projectors with many colors, like the one I found on Amazon below. The advantage of a projector is its versatility in setting the right effect for various needs.

[amalinkspro type="showcase" asin="B09HZ9YJ7B" apilink="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09HZ9YJ7B?tag=homejoy12-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1" new-window="true" addtocart="false" nofollow="true" sc-id="4" img-sizes="500:500" imgs="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/51cW5Br1ecL._SL500_.jpg" link-imgs="false" specs="✨【Convenient Remote Control&Touch Senor】Our ocean wave projector with remote controller and touch senor keys, you can freely control the rotation, volume, timing set, and adjust colorful lights, songs. (With no adapter in the package; remote control’ battery is not included)~~~✨【Colorful 8 Lighting & Mode12 LEDs】The night light projector projects colorful light onto the ceiling and walls, ideal for your bedroom decor. Room decor has 8 lighting modes, choose which mode show depending on your mood , bring the seaside home to you! An excellent gift for kids alike!~~~✨【Vivid 6 Natural Sounds & Built-in Music Player】The room night light provide with Forest insect sound, Waves seagulls sound, Water and birds, Happy music of nature, Cradlesong 1, Cradlesong 2. You can play your ipad, cellphone or other devices’ music through the music speaker, greatly help you relax after finishing a busy day or work.~~~✨【Adjustable 45 Degree Display Angle &TF Card+AUX Cable】The remote control projector can tilt 0-45 degrees to different directions. Our lights for bedroom is additionally equipped with a TF card, and besides the audio input can be connected to mp3 player ,iphone,ipad,android phone and PC for music playing.~~~✨【Intelligent Auto Off Timer &Birthday Present】 Our ocean wave lamp built-in 1H, 2H, 4H auto off timer, freely to set auto shut-off after the present time by remote controller, and it can be also cancelled to stay on all night long. With these amazing and beautiful galaxy light projector for bedroom, kids night light projector is sure to be appreciated and loved by that special person in your life!" btn-color="#ff9900" btn-text="Buy on Amazon" alignment="alignnone" hide-prime="0" hide-image="0" hide-price="0" hide-button="0" width="750"]Ocean Wave Projector, 12 LED Remote Control Night Light Lamp Timer 8 Colors Changing LED Kids Night Light Projector Lamp for Baby Children Adult Bedroom Living Room and Party Decorations[/amalinkspro]

The color choices of your equipment, like lava lamps and fixtures such as floor couches, should complement your room color. Extreme contrasts can have a detrimental effect on children with ASD.  

Sensory Room Lights

Lighting is an essential element of your sensory room. It affects the moods of children with ASD or SPD. Lighting is also used to influence behavior.

These can act as stimulants or comforters. So, avoiding harsh, flickering, or high-intensity lights is advisable.

Besides ceiling, wall, or floor lights, you must consider all light-emitting devices or equipment you can add to your room.

Here are some suggestions!   

Sensory Room Bubble Tubes

child interacting with bubble tube

Verheul and Hulsegge also conceived bubble tubes. These are sensory devices that provide a relaxing yet colorful experience.

Bubble tubes use LED lights that can be controlled to provide the best settings for any individual.

These can be ideal for children with ASD, ADHD, and adults with Alzheimer’s.

Bubble tubes can cycle through a wide range of colors. Artificial aquarium bubble tubes come with fake fish that bob up and down.

The only sound emitted is that of bubbling water.

These are available in different sizes, and some recent models are rectangular.  

Bubble Tube Benefits:

  • These have soothing and eye-catching effects
  • Development of color recognition
  • Can teach cause and effect
  • Enables focus and visual skill development
  • New versions are Wi-Fi compatible.

Also, bubble tubes provide tactile stimulation. Touching these can activate the nerve signals beneath the skin, thus improving neural activity.

When searching for bubble tubes, focus on reviews instead of looks and price. Yes, the better ones are expensive, but these are sturdier and last longer.

Here's a high-quality bubble tube I found!

[amalinkspro type="showcase" asin="B075QKKJ4P" apilink="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075QKKJ4P?tag=homejoy12-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1" new-window="true" addtocart="false" nofollow="true" sc-id="4" img-sizes="500:500" imgs="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/51-v-rQMNAL._SL500_.jpg" link-imgs="false" specs="A BREATHTAKING AQUARIUM EXPERIENCE THAT DAZZLES AND RELAXES. Now with 10 fish (including 2 horsefish!) and 3.9 feet (120 cm) of swimming room, our new sensory bubble tube floor lamp makes the perfect gift for the children in your family or decor piece for sensory loving adults. Watch as colorful fish bob up and down the water tube, waving their mechanical tails and interacting with the streaming bubbles in an incredibly lifelike way - all on a soothing backdrop of color-changing LED ambiance.~~~SENSORY ROOM LIGHTING WITHOUT THE SENSORY ROOM COSTS. Stimulate object tracking, color recognition, and sound localization abilities without spending thousands on expensive sensory bubble tubes from special needs companies. Keep your child, student, or client with ASD and-or SPD sitting still for hours with this captivating multi-sensory fish water lamp display. Our bubble column sensory lights for autism are great presents for kids with disability or special needs!~~~20-COLOR OPTION REMOTE CONTROL FOR FULL WIRELESS CUSTOMIZATION. Our bubble tower lamp allows you to choose between 16 solid colors (including blue, green, purple, red, yellow, white), 4 transition settings (flash, strobe, fade, smooth), and on-off modes with the touch of a button. Whether you want your childs favorite color as a bedroom night light, or the perfect color-changing setting for your living area - nothing is outside your control with the SensoryMoon aquarium fish lamp remote!~~~ATTENTION-GETTING CENTERPIECE THAT SPARKS CONVERSATION. Get your friends, family, guests, co-workers, or patients talking at your parties, get-togethers, or office. Our aqua bubble lamp offers an acceptable motor hum that fades into background noises already created by the TV, laptop, and conversation - or can be minimized further with a standard mat or rug. Perfect home decor for adults who are sensory seekers, or parents who dont want to deal with the hassle of real fish!~~~CAPTIVATING NIGHT LIGHT THAT MAKES BEDTIME EASY TO HANDLE. Send your son or daughter straight to sleep with these mesmerizing LED water bubble tube. The constant but quiet bubbling noise and the whirring of motor provides an ideal white noise for a serene, restful, and relaxing environment. Your children will insist on turning off the bedroom lights as they calmly watch the cycling colors, streaming bubbles, and bobbing fish until they fall asle" btn-color="#ff9900" btn-text="Buy on Amazon" alignment="alignnone" hide-prime="0" hide-image="0" hide-price="0" hide-button="0" width="750"]SensoryMoon 3.9 ft Bubble Tube Floor Lamp w 10 Fish, 20 Color Remote and Tall Water Tower Tank is Best LED Aqua Night Light for Kids Bedroom, Autism or Fake Aquarium Column Stand for Living Room Decor[/amalinkspro]

Lava Lamps

lava lamp close up

These are excellent alternatives to bubble tubes because they provide almost the same benefits. Lava lamps are visually stimulating, portable, and easily mounted on any surface.

These can be adjusted to set any desired mood.  

Many manufacturers recognize the needs of children with ASD or SPD. Several companies are selling wall-mounted models for sensory rooms.

Lava lamps are now energy-efficient and made with shatter-proof glass. Many models are available now and again, so in a valiant attempt not to sound like a broken record...check the reviews first before buying.

...Yeah, that didn't work. I'm now officially a broken record.

Awesome.

Check out this lava lamp as a good starting point. Its quality design makes it an excellent choice for a sensory room!

[amalinkspro type="showcase" asin="B07BTXVNZV" apilink="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BTXVNZV?tag=homejoy12-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1" new-window="true" addtocart="false" nofollow="true" sc-id="4" img-sizes="500:448" imgs="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/417Uo6mjP-L._SL500_.jpg" link-imgs="false" specs="ONE YEAR WARRANTY FOR COMPLETE PEACE OF MIND:There is nothing more embarrassing that giving someone a defective gift。Choose this jellyfish lamp, you dont need to worry this! Launched around 2018, more than 50000PCS has been sold, thats why we are so confident youll love our jellyfish aquarium that were willing to offer a 1 year warranty. Any question, please email us, we will response to you within 10 hours.~~~Specifical design: Driven by a whisper quiet motor in order to satisfy the requirements quite / you can fix color by press key light without worry about losing remote/ 4 hours automatic shut-off function~~~Mood light for relaxation and meditation : it can help you relax and ease your tight emotion, This soothing mood light creates a stimulating and a calming environment for children and adults whilst providing a pleasurable and enchanting visual point of focus or diversion. they are great for use in any environment where you need to take a few minutes out of your day to clear your head and relax without the hassle of keeping jellyfish alive~~~Gift for her or him: gift for kids,mom, dad, wife, husband, everyone like this gift for home décor,night light,reduce pressure~~~Electric Jellyfish Tanks are latest fashion in ornamental tanks for modern décor and relaxation. The jellyfish are realistic and even have the tendrils that float behind them as they move creating a realistic effect and mesmerize you, feature with colour changing LED lights makes a spellbinding addition to any home, office or bedro" btn-color="#ff9900" btn-text="Buy on Amazon" alignment="alignnone" hide-prime="0" hide-image="0" hide-price="0" hide-button="0" width="750"]COLORLIFE Electric Jellyfish Tank Table Lamp with Color Changing Light Gift for Kids Men Women Home Deco for Room Mood Light for Relax(Black)[/amalinkspro]

Led Strips

You can mount these anywhere in your sensory room. These provide indirect light, which can be calming for children with ASD.

You can change the light intensity and color with a remote or wired switch.  

You can buy LED strips that are 60 feet long. These are easy to cut, which becomes significant when dealing with corners. And these can be linked to each other.

Also, most people use these as ceiling borders to provide rooms with enough light while still keeping them dimmed.

My girlfriend Deanna asked me to share her favorite choice of LED strips with you all, which can be found below!

[amalinkspro type="showcase" asin="B08GM55YF3" apilink="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GM55YF3?tag=homejoy12-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1" new-window="true" addtocart="false" nofollow="true" sc-id="4" img-sizes="500:500" imgs="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/51DUdUEkceL._SL500_.jpg" link-imgs="false" specs="60 feet Led Light Strips:Long enough to reach around your entire room;Easily decorate large places like bedroom,ceiling,kitchen,stairs,interior porches,windows~~~Color Changing Light:The Led Strip Lights provide 16 multicolor options;With 6 DIY color and 8 models;Suitable for holiday parties,like Christmas,Halloween,and more~~~Easy Installation:3M self adhesive tape of led lights can be flexible stuck on any dry and flat surface~~~Cuttable and Linkable:Led lights can be cut between every 3 Leds along the cutting marks;Note that our products do not include connectors~~~Warm Tips: Before you want to stick the light,please confirm its position to avoid damaging your w" btn-color="#ff9900" btn-text="Buy on Amazon" alignment="alignnone" hide-prime="0" hide-image="0" hide-price="0" hide-button="0" width="750"]60ft Led Lights,dalattin Led Strip Lights for Bedroom Color Changing Lights with 44 Keys Remote Controller Led Strip Lights,2 Rolls of 30ft[/amalinkspro]

Sensory Bins

Sensory bins are large containers filled with all kinds of objects that stimulate the senses.

Unlike those found in homes and classrooms, materials for sensory bins in sensory rooms are carefully selected.

For autistic and all other children in general, here are some safe objects you can use for sensory bins:

  • Shredded paper
  • Sand
  • Water
  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Rice (Can come in different colors)
  • Jello
  • Beans
  • Edible water beads
  • Lentils

A sensory bin filled with various objects can keep children busy for long periods. If you regularly replace items, they will remain interested in discovering something new.

I suggest you take note of the things they like the most. Mix these with other objects until you find the best combination they’ll love.

Crash Pads/Mats

Autism crash mat

Autistic kids don’t have to miss all the fun on the playground. Children can run and play in the comfort of a home or sensory room.

You don’t have to fear them getting hurt when they run into things like furniture. When jumping and crashing on these mats, they improve their strength and muscle tone in their legs and joints.

Crash pads also help children with SPD. Their vestibular system is improved, which provides their brains with information about motion, head position, and spatial orientation.

They learn to keep their balance and coordination when moving.

There are several guides on how to create your crash pad. I suggest you check what’s sold in the market first until you’re familiar with these.

Here's a good recommended option to start with!

[amalinkspro type="showcase" asin="B07DP65PMS" apilink="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DP65PMS?tag=homejoy12-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1" new-window="true" addtocart="false" nofollow="true" sc-id="4" img-sizes="500:500" imgs="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/412g6fCpCfL._SL500_.jpg" link-imgs="false" specs="The crash pad can be used as a soft landing zone for kids who crave sensory input, or as a giant bean bag for reading and relaxing, providing safe sensory stimulation.~~~The outer velour cover is removable and washable for easy care.~~~The inner cover wipes clean and comes with a zipper lock so that the foam won’t pop out during use.~~~Four mesh vents gently release air during use for the ultimate in sensory feedback.~~~The pad is filled with soft foam pieces which are certified to be low VOC. The crash pad is free of flame retardan" btn-color="#ff9900" btn-text="Buy on Amazon" alignment="alignnone" hide-prime="0" hide-image="0" hide-price="0" hide-button="0" width="750"]Milliard Crash Pad, Sensory Pad with Foam Blocks for Kids and Adults with Washable Cover (5 feet x 5 feet)[/amalinkspro]

Sensory Room Bean Bags

boy reading in a bean bag chair

These are not your ordinary bean bags. It’s a bit tricky to get the right sensory room bean bag as there’s a specific type for each need.

So what particular aspect of your child needs development? It would be best if you answered this first before acquiring bean bags.

Sensory bean bags are better for autistic children, whereas heavier ones might be good for kids with SPD.

We take bean bags for granted in everyday life. But there are many benefits for kids with disabilities or disorders, such as...

  • Improved focus and attention
  • Motor skills development
  • Motor planning
  • Improved hand-eye coordination
  • These are great props for interaction.

Sensory bean bags are specially made for autistic kids so that they can have fun with them. They are lighter than standard bean bags.

Some designs have small extensions or fingers that can improve a child’s sensory integration and tactile experience.

Take a look at this high-rated bean bag I found on Amazon!

[amalinkspro type="showcase" asin="B00DQT7B2C" apilink="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DQT7B2C?tag=homejoy12-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1" new-window="true" addtocart="false" nofollow="true" sc-id="4" img-sizes="500:500" imgs="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/31rNgwyzXcL._SL500_.jpg" link-imgs="false" specs="COMFORT MEETS STYLE: Big kids and little ones alike can enjoy a comfy spot to sit all their own! This bean bag chair is a great fit for a variety of living spaces with the classic bean bag shape everyone loves! Designed with a convenient handle makes it easy for little hands to travel to their next adventure.~~~DURABLE MATERIAL: Made a spill? Designed with our durable, stain-resistant SmartMax fabric, spot cleaning is easily accomplished.~~~PERFECTLY FILLED: We purposely fill your bean bag with the perfect amount of beans, because we know an over-filled bean bag is not comfy!~~~ITS IN THE DETAILS: Double-stitched with dual zippers for extra safety and durability. Take the Classic bean bag chair with you wherever you go with its convenient built-in handle.~~~HOME GROWN: Big Joes are designed and filled in the U" btn-color="#ff9900" btn-text="Buy on Amazon" alignment="alignnone" hide-prime="0" hide-image="0" hide-price="0" hide-button="0" width="750"]Big Joe Classic Beanbag Chair, Sapphire[/amalinkspro]

Sensory Room Exercise Balls

mom and toddler playing with exercise ball

Also known as therapy balls, these have many uses, including therapy for children with disabilities or disorders. It’s a staple in homes for kids with ASD and SPD.

So, it’s a must-have for any sensory room.

Pushing it up a wall helps children improve their strength and balance. Kids getting knocked over while bouncing an exercise ball is great for their proprioceptive sense.

People with SPD can’t tell the position of their body parts in relation to their space. 

Rolling, lying prone, and sitting on the ball provide therapeutic benefits, including motor planning development.

This skill lets people remember the steps needed to perform an activity.

Children with disorders take time to learn simple tasks like washing hands. 

Some kids kick the ball, which is also good exercise for them. But I suggest supervising when they do so. They might end up hurting themselves.

The smallest exercise balls are less than two feet, while the largest is under three feet in diameter. Most brands today sell exercise balls made from safe materials. These have non-slip or ribbed surfaces.

You can order customized sensory products from online sellers, many of which are parents of kids with ASD or SPD. I suggest you visit their sites.

Also, here's an example of a highly-rated exercise ball from one of those companies!

[amalinkspro type="showcase" asin="B010MVAJZ2" apilink="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B010MVAJZ2?tag=homejoy12-20&linkCode=osi&th=1&psc=1" new-window="true" addtocart="false" nofollow="true" sc-id="4" img-sizes="500:499" imgs="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/41+9K3-ENDL._SL500_.jpg" link-imgs="false" specs="ANTI-BURST - Built with sturdy PVC material, this anti-burst pilates ball can handle the most rigorous workouts up to 600 lbs of weight. Youll never need to worry about the balance ball bursting or losing its shape.~~~ANTI-SLIP - The surface of this pregnancy ball is coated in a non-slip glaze that will ensure you have a proper and safe grip. Use it to get fit, relieve back pain, or to soothe aches during pregnancy as a birthing ball.~~~TOTAL FITNESS - Excellent stability ball for yoga, pilates, or physical therapy. It can even help improve posture and core strength when used as an exercise ball chair, making it great for the office or working from home.~~~FAST SETUP - These exercise balls for working out have a quick, dual-action ball pump to easily inflate by hand. Your workout ball is delivered deflated and can be pumped up in minutes with minimal effort.~~~VERSATILE USE - Whether youre using this yoga ball chair for exercise or to bounce your newborn baby to sleep, our customer support team is on-hand to assist you with any questions or concer" btn-color="#ff9900" btn-text="Buy on Amazon" alignment="alignnone" hide-prime="0" hide-image="0" hide-price="0" hide-button="0" width="750"]URBNFit Exercise Ball - Yoga Ball for Workout, Pilates, Pregnancy, Stability - Swiss Balance Ball w/ Pump - Fitness Ball Chair for Office, Home Gym, Labor- Blue, 26 in[/amalinkspro]

Wrapping it Up

Creating a sensory room for children with special needs is a continual learning process. It involves patience, trial, and error.

As kids develop, you need to make adjustments. It’s tiring, tedious, and costly.

But, building your ideal sensory room for kids is always worth the effort when you consider the developmental milestones that are bound to show a short time down the road!