A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place
I have been recently following a few different conversations online about raising autistic kids. There has been something that I keep saying no matter what the situation is, that’s being talked about. There is a need for an autistic child to have their own safe space. In our household, we have taken that a step further. Each person has to have their own safe space. I know that in our autistic household (for those who haven’t read this site before, I am also autistic as are both our kids.) this is more a necessity than most households, but I think it stands firm for ANY household, even if there are no kids/people with disabilities.
I know, this may be difficult in your dwelling. We have lived in apartments as small as 600 sq. ft. and as large as 1800 sq. ft. It has always been a priority to make sure each person had a safe place to go. We’ve constructed safe places with tents or curtains or physical rooms. Sometimes, the chosen safe place is a walk in closet if that is what the person needing a safe space decides. (ie, we do not force our children into closets.) Sometimes it means being very creative with how you define a space. Sometimes it means allowing use of a space that normally would not be used by that person.
I’m going to give a few scenarios that closely resemble things that have occurred in our household, but speak to the questions I’ve been seeing that led me to writing this.
- Person A has had a really long day at work or school. The person is exhausted from all the interaction and needs a break. Without a break, this person may be unable to speak, or regulate their emotions, or sleep when they go to bed at night.
- Person B has been known to hit or kick people when they get frustrated. You’re working on giving them a better way to communicate their frustration, but in the meantime, you want to make sure everyone in your home is safe.
- Person C and Person D argue all the time and just can’t seem to get along. You are frustrated and just want the bickering to stop.
I know one of these does not seem like the others, and I will write about that in a different post that I’m trying to write on. However, the principle is the same. There are hundreds of reasons to have a safe space for each and every person in your house. When people are sick, or in my case, have chronic pain, or whatever. These are all times when a safe space away from everyone else is needed.
So why does everyone need a different one? Well, what do you do when your safe space is occupied by someone else also needing it?
Example #3 is really pretty normal in ANY household with more than one child. They are bound to argue. That is bound to lead to fights and mom and dad getting to their wits end. Having a way to separate everyone is needed.
If you use the safe space consistently, this can mean that this is where a person goes to when they’re overwhelmed or upset or sad or sick. In those safe spaces, they need things to help the person calm down and decompress. Having things such as weighted blankets, or bean bag chairs, or body sox, or even a different color light (night lights?) in those spaces mean that not only are you giving a safe space, but a way to calm themselves and learn to self-regulate.
Some things this space is not:
- a place of punishment. If you are using it as punishment, you’re doing it wrong. You have then broken the sanctity of that space.
- “giving in.” If you believe that, then you are not accepting that your spouse/child/self needs this as part of their overall wellness.
- special treatment. Especially if you do it for everyone, it’s not special treatment; it’s universal design. But even if you just do it for your autistic child/spouse/self, this is an accommodation. Accommodations are about supplying each person with what they need.