Cozy, tidy and quiet living rooms

Recommendation 94
Create a cozy, tidy and quiet living room

Chapter (theme)
interior design (living rooms)

Because of
Central Coherence, Cognitive shifting, Sensory sensitivity, ToM, Limitations in social interaction and communication, Stereotypical patterns (rigidity)

In order to
diminish tension, negative and depressive feelings and to better the ToM.  In larger families: learn to cope with larger groups which can be overstimulating and conducive to anxiety.

Elaboration
A quiet and clear living room of which the lay-out is conducive to orientation, can prevent many tensions and problems. Some cannot endure any changes in the arrangement of the furniture and other objects. Autistic people may experience the change of one element in an arrangement as a totally new situation. (This has to do with Weak Central Coherence.) In such instances, it’s therefore advisable to keep the interior stable and to maintain fixed positions of tables, chairs etc.

If a parent has reason to change the arrangement, it’s advisable to involve the child in the decision, thereby facilitating his or her ability to adapt. Here Cognitive shifting and stereotypical patterns (the inflexibel element in it) may simultaneously be in play.

At times the attachment to one’s own fixed place is so strong, the child needs sharp boundaries. In these circumstances, something with a clear demarcation, such as the seat elements of a couch, can be helpful: this is yours, that’s mine. A mother of autistic twins resolved the constant bickering about ‘my half, no my half’ through drawing a line with a marker across their folding pram.
The rules are not universal; some children are quite capable of enduring limited changes without repercussions.

A combination of a two or three seater sofa and an armchair in which one can sit by oneself while in company, often works quite well. Preferably cozy, firm, easy to clean couches can help to learn to sit next to others.

Though there are many reasons to value quiet in the subject’s environment, oversensitive senses is a key reason to maintain quiet. This quiet can be threatened when a number of people are at a table: often one talks at the same time without listening much. There is a lot of eye-contact, a strong focus on eating, a bustle around the table, involving invasions of others’ personal space, adding to the social and communicative pressure. All of this can easily lead to sensory overload and worsen the ToM.

It is advisable to have a large table, composed out of two smaller ones, which can be separated if the need arises.

A separate corner in which one can quietly read or be on the computer is pleasant and often necessary. Easy reading material such as comic books makes it easier to withdraw partly from the group, while still participating partially as well. We call this a ‘lee-space

If there is a computer in the room, a folding screen may be put around it to shelter the autistic user from the visual input from others. A screen of the same color as the walls renders a “quiet” image and makes it less special.

Last, but not least, it is very important to avoid cluttering. ‘Things’ laying about contribute to difficulties in keeping an overview and lead to distraction and diversion. To keep one’s concentration is difficult enough because of various sensory oversensitivities; other distractions, however, should not be underestimated. Make sure, therefore, there is ample storage room, such as closets, drawers, and closed cupboards to keep things not in use out of sight. Storage materials such as crates and sturdy boxes can contribute to a quiet, clear and coherence-enhancing image of the space. Closed cupboards help to convey a quit image of the entire home.

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