All children need help learning to process difficult emotions and to calm their bodies. Some children with special needs become overstimulated more easily, and a calm-down area, like the one we have here at Innovative Behavior Options, can help teach self-regulation during difficult moments.
A calm-down area may be useful in your own home, too, for those times that you can’t make it to a therapy center in a moment of need or even after in-home ABA Therapy. Consider these tips to build your own calm-down space that provides comfort, meets your child’s sensory needs, and helps them process difficult emotions.
Choose a Location
A calm-down area should be a dedicated space that your child can go to when they need it. Find an area in your home that’s quiet and away from the house’s busy on-goings. Choose the area that works best for your family – it can be in your child’s room, a nook under the stairs, the corner of the dining room – as long as your child is comfortable.
Make it Comfortable
You can lay out a blanket or mat to define the space, or, if you think your child might benefit from a more enclosed setting, you can use a tent, a canopy hung from the ceiling, or a curtain. Include a place to sit, such as a beanbag chair, pillows, and blankets.
A calm-down area should include items that are familiar, engaging, and calming. Including visual cues, such as signs and pictures, can be helpful, too. It may take some trial and error to find what works best for your child. Here are some suggestions:
- A stuffed animal to hug or a stress ball to squeeze
- A fidget spinner, playdough, or silly putty
- Noise-cancelling headphones to block out overwhelming sounds or play calming music
- Crayons and a coloring book or pen and paper for drawing or journaling
- A favorite book
Remember, a calm-down area is not for time out or punishment – it should be a positive space. You can explain to your child that it’s a good place to go when frustrated or upset, and practice using the space while they’re calm. For young children, you may want to use the calm-down area with them. You can invite your child in and blow bubbles together or read a book.
As everyone is getting back to school, you can incorporate the calm-down area into your routine. Some of our ABA therapy patients use a calm-down area after school or therapy to unwind and decompress at the end of the day or session.