For parents of a child with special needs, having the ability to keep your sanity and keeping your child safe at the same time can be a challenge. Many parents have discovered that having a safe room in their home can help with this by giving the child a place he can play with minimal interaction and/or supervision
while the parents have a moment to pay the bills, fold the laundry, or just de-stress.
Dutch Door: A Dutch door is one that opens at both the top and the bottom while the other half is still shut. You can make one by adding hinges to an existing (non hollow-core) door and cutting it widthwise, about four feet from the bottom. Lock placement is important as lock that can fall into or out of place with a door slam have been known to accidentally trap parents inside or outside of the room.
Wall mounted television: The most popular and safe television
would be a flat panel, attached
to the ceiling or very high on the wall (usually via mounting bracket) , that contains a DVD player. Putting Velcro on the remote and securing it outside the door or the side of the TV is a great way to make sure that the remote is not lost or broken by the children in the room. It also prevents batteries from becoming accidentally swallowed.
Play mat: Play mats can be used to help keep a safe room sanitary (easy cleaning) as well as keeping the child safe from bumps and falls. These need to be secured to the floors and/or walls in a way that would keep a child from rolling under them and accidentally suffocating. This also keeps them from being stacked and used as a step-stool to get to an object purposely placed out of the child's reach.
Toys and books: Make sure that none of the toys and/or books that you leave in the room contain choking hazards. Because children have differing abilities, it is hard to recommend certain books or toys. Parent instinct is usually best here. Choose what your child enjoys. Some children enjoy books and will read for hours, while others will chew the paper, which makes books a choking hazard.
Decorations: While you want the room to be soothing and friendly, many decorations can become choking hazards. Anything painted onto a wall should be fine, but make sure decorations can't be reached, or pulled down to cause the child injury.
Now, obviously this room is not meant to be an all-day, indoor prison for a child who needs interaction and supervision. A child who can recognize a fire alarm and safely evacuate a building in case of fire, shouldn't be left in a locked safe room. However, knowing that you can safely put a movie in for your child and walk away for a few minutes without worrying can work wonders toward helping to decrease the everyday stress of having a child with special needs.
See Especially for You: Practical books and resources for families with special needs for items that can help you make your special needs child's room safe.
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