Decorating for a child with special needs

February 22, 2012

More helpful suggestions from designer Ginger Rodriguez on setting up a room for a child who has medical needs.

Paint the walls in a color the child likes or helped pick out.

Position the bed so the child is able to see the outdoors while stuck in bed. Keep favorite toys, books, games and music available and close by.

An organized closet will keep things neat, easy to see and easy to reach. This closet system can be expanded or changed to adapt to a child’s needs. It starts at $12.95. www.onestepahead.com.

Keep medical supplies out of a child’s reach.


Designer Ginger Rodriguez (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Store toys and clothes below.

Keep things at a child’s height. The child should have easy access to light switches, music, door handles, bookshelves and some closet shelves. If possible, have an electrician lower the light switches in the room. Another option: adding an extension handle. $9.95. www.onestepahead.com.

Have furniture do double duty, such as a bedside table with shelving to keep medical equipment and supplies handy and a locked cabinet or refrigerator below.

Murals are safe alternatives to hanging pictures or shelves on the walls in children’s spaces. Ginger Rodriguez used local muralist Jenny Burgei to create the artwork in Sean’s room. www.jennyburgei.com.

Pocket doors are a nice alternative to swinging doors because they allow access to more of the room’s square footage.

A TV can provide distraction from time-consuming treatments and therapies. You’ll get more cooperation if you don’t have a bored kid, says Rodriguez. She uses Velcro to attach Sean’s TV remote to his headboard for easy access and to keep it from getting lost.

Hide-away bed rail. A rail will offer help to children who have difficulty getting in and out of bed. This folding rail slides beneath the mattress when you don’t need it. $29.95. www.onestepahead.com.

Wireless door alarm. A battery-operated door alarm will alert you if your child is at risk of leaving the house or bedroom. $19.99 for a set of two. www.mypreciouskid.com.

Comfy lift bed. An elevated headrest will keep a child upright while eating, which will lessen reflux. The design prevents sliding downward, which can happen in a regular bed. It starts at $290. www.comfyliftbed.com.

Noah’s World bed. With mesh sides that can be zippered shut, this bed keeps your child safe and secure while they sleep. Rodriguez often recommends it to clients with children who have autism. Also, some insurances companies reimburse for this bed. $3,600.

Consider wheelchair needs. A wheelchair requires a five-foot turnaround. There should be non-slip flooring, a clear path to the bathroom and clearance under tables and desks.

— Terri Sapienza

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