Accessible DesignDecorating

Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child + Giveaway

by Garrett Fleming

Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child & Giveaway, Design*Sponge

Decorating your child’s room can be a challenge. Kids are messy, they’re tough on furniture and their taste changes with the wind. Not only that, but as a parent you also want them to feel comfortable in their space and to give them a haven in which they can thrive. All in all, there’s a lot to think about when the process kicks off. For some parents, though, a much more profound factor has to be taken into account: their child being differently-abled.

Designing and decorating for kiddos with different abilities (or diffently-abled people of any age, for that matter) is a topic too often overlooked by our community. Today we are setting out to change that. We’ve partnered with advocate and mother of three, Rachel Fox Kipphut, and put together 5 Decorating Tips for Your Differently-Abled Child. Rachel is a wealth of knowledge. Her four-year-old daughter Eva was born with Down Syndrome, which meant her room and play areas needed specific attention when it was time to decorate. Coordinating colors, playing to your child’s strengths and finding ways to empower them are just a few of the tips we can all learn from Rachel and her tot.

Not only is she sharing with us all that she learned from the design process, but Rachel’s also helped us put together a great giveaway. One lucky reader will get a prize package full of goodies that are Eva-approved. Every item is stylish, useful and made by a brand that’s inclusive of those who are differently-abled. Major kudos! Click through for the tips and to enter. Enjoy. —Garrett

Photography by Rachel Fox Kipphut

Color Coordination

“In the past, Eva’s room was filled with all her toys and things she loved. What we found as she grew is that Eva is easily frustrated with too much stimuli and many choices,” Rachel tells us. To combat this, the family has broken Eva’s toys and books up amongst the areas she plays in. Rachel also color coordinated the books and such so Eva doesn’t become too overwhelmed when having to make a choice come play time.

Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child & Giveaway, Design*Sponge

Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child & Giveaway, Design*Sponge

Decompression Session

To help make the transition from school – where there’s a lot of visual and auditory stimulation and structure – to home as smooth as possible, Rachel created a quiet room where Eva can decompress. Each day when she gets home, Eva spends an hour doing something she enjoys here. It’s designed to be cozy and relaxing with cool tones throughout and lots of comfy pillows.

Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child & Giveaway, Design*Sponge

Eye-Level Organization

“Eva enjoys dancing and dressing up these days,” Rachel shares. Putting dress-up clothes, a mirror and toys at eye level has not only empowered Eva to make her own playtime choices, but “when things are neat and easily accessible and away from other distracting things” playtime’s made more pleasant.

Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child & Giveaway, Design*Sponge


Air purifying plants have been great for Eva and her family. They keep the air clean and have proven to be a great teaching tool for Eva, teaching her how to care for others and how to be responsible.

Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child & Giveaway, Design*Sponge

Playing To Strengths

Eva loves art, so Rachel has decorated her room and the playroom in all of the fabulous work Eva’s done. She also made sure to provide her with a colorful, designated space to create to her heart’s content.

Decorating for Your Differently-Abled Child & Giveaway, Design*Sponge

Do you have any other tips to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below by midnight Central Time on October 11th and you’ll be entered to win a bundle of great, inclusive goodies. One (1) lucky reader will win a prize package containing a $25.00 shop credit to Chrome Classic Kids, an Increment Studios O-Ring Sensory Toy, a shirt of their choice from Littlest Warrior Apparel, a leather play mat from Gathre and goods from Todd Parr’s North American Bear Co. collection.

Suggested For You


  • Thank you for addressing this!! I am an occupational therapist as well as a sibling of someone with autism. So I am delighted to see this addressed. I would say that the other thing to consider is accessibility to things like the bathroom and kitchen spaces. Things like a space to sit to do food prep (particularly for people with limited stamina), addressing grab bars in the bathroom (on that note I am sure attractive grab bars would be a huge money maker!). Also seats in the shower…and organization. For my brother we have tried various systems to help keep things to a bare minimum as far as gathering clutter. Baskets to corral and labeling with pictures. He’s an adult now so riding the line between assist and making it not “kid” stuff is so important! On that note I’m sure I could get those kiddo things to some deserving kids with disabilities!

  • I love this! My nephew (who’s on the autism spectrum) loves music and is able to memorize lyrics like nobody’s business. :) Having a space to play music whenever he fancies is great — could be on an MP3 player, a record player (for older children, maybe?), on tapes or CDs, with or without headphones, etc.
    Thanks for the post, and the giveaway. :)

  • yaaaaasssssssss!!! Thank you so much for this! So happy to see interior design beautifully addressing the issues of differently-abled children with universal ideas. My wish is that all new housing construction would be universal, meaning designed to accommodate all abilities from the cradle to the grave.

  • This is so helpful for any one living with littles. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • thank you thank you thank you. i’m a mom of a little boy with a very rare developmental delay diagnosis and to say the least, it’s easy to feel isolated when all the home blogs feature rooms geared toward “normal” kids. whether i win the package or not, i’m crazy grateful that you posted this.

  • I’ve been reorganizing our small home to accommodate my child who has some sensory issues. These are great ideas! For those with smaller spaces, I find it’s important to only keep a limited amount of toys out and swap them out every week. It’s a lot of work, but it’s the only way he’ll actually play with anything.

  • Wonderful post! Thank you for being inclusive. And for the giveaway, lovely items.

  • Ditto to the earlier comments! My daughter is visually impaired and we have learned how important contrast is when we are designing our spaces. Things as simple as baseboards and light switches that are not the same color as the wall or floor make a big difference in her day to day and independence.

  • This is a great post. Thank you for acknowledging this topic. Another thing that helps is having easy access to drawing paper and pencils if the child likes drawing. It can be a very calming independent activity.

  • A sensory friendly room, with all the “fixings” (weighted blankets, low lights, music capabilities, lots of things to feel and touch)!

  • I used to teach an inclusive preschool class and found that keeping it simple and less stimulating is best for many children – not just those with identified special needs.

  • Thank you for doing this! I’m about to bring a 3 year old home after a 2 month hospital stay, and it’s nice to think about creating a living space that doesn’t look like a hospital. All the equipment and supplies can be overwhelming, and this is wonderful inspiration.

  • I’ve always loved Rachel’s style! Love to see her featured for something so great! The room looks fabulous and the giveaway line up looks pretty fabulous too ;)

  • Thank you thank you thank you! As a parent to twins each with their own special need, it can feel like we exist in another world from everyone else. My tip: integrate different textures into your child’s surroundings (good for any child). Straw baskets, smooth metal, kinetic sand, yarn, silky play scarves, and space to make a mess (goop, painting, play-doh, etc).

  • This makes me SO happy! I have twin girls with Autism to varying degrees. I am noticing that now that they are 8 it is important that they have their own spaces because their needs are different. Grace loves stimulation and is very physical. Ava needs quiet and likes to play pretend and very sensitive to everything being “just so”. My plan is to create a sensory space and physical play area. Installing a swing and a modified rock wall is on our to-do list!!

  • Thank you! This was lovely to see!

    We have “crash pads” set up in various rooms for my ASD 3 yr old – a soft futon mattress with fitted sheet topped with giant stuffed animals. We tend to go neutral or earthy with the color schemes for him. Also no overhead light, lower wattage table lamps seem to work best for us :)

  • I think this is wonderful! I think the most important thing to remember is to know your little one and meet them where they are, with what they need and the steps to get them where they need to be. No matter how a person is able, they are an individual and have individual needs. My daughter is recently diagnosed with ASD, every day I remind myself to step back and think about what she needs or how she sees things. I’m far from perfect with it but try every day to be more sensitive to her needs. These items would bring us a long way into creating her own little haven.

  • I don’t have special needs child, but I do have four children and they each pose his or her own challenges! One of the things I’ve found is that the less we have, the better off we are! It might seem like the kids will get bored sooner or fight over the few things that are around, but they get less-frustrated with the mess and find creative ways to use and play with what’s there. Whenever I reorganize a space they get very excited and can’t wait to play in it. So… I find paring down, even rotating possessions, can be helpful.

  • Beautiful post celebrating beautifully different children. My husband and I welcome our second child, Samuel, in January. He was born with dwarfism and we are now — after months of worrying about limitations — beginning to see just how normal his life will be; he’ll just need plenty of stools (Future post idea, DS?) around the house.

    Our design go-to will be placing plenty of mirrors around the house so that Samuel can build comfort and confidence in his body image. I have never been one to use mirrors as design accessories so this will be new for me to have them placed in smart locations where they match our design aesthetic AND — more importantly — are usable for Samuel.

    Really, this post nailed it with simple organization and eye level arranging. And I love the idea of plants that Sam can tend to.

    Thank you for this post, and thank you for the phrase “differently-abled,” which I had never heard and quite like!

  • Wonderful and inspiring post. Transitioning from childcare to home is a challenge. Creating a special space for our daughter; her “fort” with tapestries, floor pillows and books has provided a quiet safe haven for a tired toddler. 20 minutes of soft textures, familiar smells and order, tends to reset the fickle behavior that comes with “mob” mentality of group childcare.

  • I love this! That room looks incredible ? My three children share a room and two of my boys have sensory issues so trying to make it look good yet be soothing and helpful for them is a challenge. Thanks for this

  • Rachel’s passion for design and creating such an accommodating environment for her littles is an inspiration. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Thank you so much for this article! Both of my little guys have a rare genetic syndrome and have intellectual and physical disabilities. Whenever we move next, we hope to create a therapy/play room and install an indoor swing to meet their sensory needs. Our boys also love music and lights, so we’ll have to get creative on ways to incorporate those interests into that shared space. Pinning this post to return to later, too!

  • Please, more posts like this with suggestions for additional options and ideas. I’m embarrassed to admit that I professionally fund accessible projects and yet haven’t had a considered approach to establishing kid spaces in our home that night benefit our son’s special needs. It’s all been behavior modification for us, and simple organizing. More, more, more! Thank you!!!

  • I love this! My daughter is 6 and has Down syndrome. We are just about to make her a bedroom! This would be awesome!! ❤️

  • Love the colors and putting plants in kids room. I always worried about the dirt, but it is a very good way to teach caring.

  • Beautiful and important post. Thank you.

    Other tips might be to get a bunk bed and turn one of the beds into another cozy area, to get a bed canopy and to add neon stars for glow in the dark effects.


  • I especially appreciate the greenery tip. I didn’t even cross my mind to add a plant to my son’s room. Love the idea that he would care for it and take on that responsibility.

  • I love all of the ideas in this post and can’t wait to try them in my new home.

  • Thank you for this post! My son has autism, ADHD and sensory processing disorder and also shares a room with his typically developing sister. We have divided their room with an Ikea shelf (safely secured) so that while they are in their beds they have the feeling of their own space but they also have the security of still hearing their sibling. For sensory input, our son has his beloved Yogibo bean bag chair and different blankets (fuzzy, a silky sleeping bag, a down comforter) that he can dive into after school. When he was younger, before he spoke many words, we were able to communicate with him by writing. He had taught himself to read at 3. I painted our refrigerator with chalkboard paint and used all of that space for play and teaching. One of our biggest challenges is housekeeping, being such a visual kid he loves to have everything he might need out where he can see it. I try to put the toys he uses to play in unison (marble runs and dominoes) near each other in containers that are easy to move around. I also give a courtesy warning when it’s time to vacuum so that he can go to another room and close the door, the sound completes overwhelms his senses and can cause meltdowns.

  • This is an amazing post and I’m so pleased to see more people in the ‘blog’ sphere consider accessibility! In saying that, I also want to be candid and say: I hope you’ll also consider taking a look at the web accessibility needs of Design Sponge in the future. I work for an accessibility and research center and I’d love to share this around, but many of our employees would not be able to access this site through things like screen readers, etc. in order to read the article, and so that makes me hesitate. Folks who are differently abled oftentimes use virtual spaces differently too, and I’d love to see more blogs tackle accessibility. (Which can be a real challenge when you’re a one person business or a small team, I know.)

  • I love this so many great tips Eva is one lucky girl to have her parents my sons room is a mixture of his dad and I. But I should start letting him make his own choices.

  • Thank you so much for this post. As an interior designer as well as a mom of a boy with special needs, I think of this topic all day long and seldom find suggestions that don’t look like a hospital room. I found that lots of comfortable floor seating is great, and helps grow-ups with floor time with the child. Also, safe things to grasp for support while learning to walk and to pull up on. Large clipboards (sold in art supply stores) are wonderful for stabilizing paper for drawing and painting and can help getting the right angle to work from. Easels are great too, IKEA makes a very inexpensive one with a side for magnets, something we used all the time for fine motor learning. A space with no stimuli is terrific, such as a tent in the corner of a room. Good luck to all the new parents who commented, and thanks for the pic of beautiful Eva.

  • These are wonderful tips – especially the eye-level organization idea!

    My son has autism and we absolutely try to make things easier for him but we hadn’t tried organizing at his eye-level. Will add to the list.

    Goodies look amazing – especially o-rings! Thanks :)

  • As a special educator, a special needs mom, and a special needs auntie I couldn’t appreciate this article more than I do! Your suggestions are spot on and allow for inclusion of all need levels. Thank you!!!

  • My thoughts on this aren’t super-well-formed, because it’s not something I’ve given lots of thought to before, but a lot of this echoed (in a good way) some of the things I’ve read about the Montessori approach – that spaces should be designed to facilitate a child’s independence. Just the steps to take to facilitate that independence might look different or need to be very carefully thought out for some kids (that is neither meant to downplay or marginalize the needs of differently abled kids, nor be patronizing – I hope it doesn’t come across that way). Interesting.

  • Love the colors, design theme, ideas and thought that went into this room. I can really tell it was a labor of love. As a pediatric Social Worker and mother of a child with Childhood Apraxia of Speech, ASD, SPD, anxiety and global apraxia, I am constantly seeking out ideas to make our playroom sensory friendly and more child accessible. Thank you

  • I am a new mom to a daughter with down syndrome, and this article is extremely helpful. Although my daughter is only 3mo old, so many things are stimulating to her and some are too stimulating causing tantrums. We are always looking for ways to help her. I already bookmarked this blog to come back to. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I needed to read this more than ever, today, after an overly-exhausting Therapy session :) God bless our little warriors!

  • I love this. We just moved to a new rental house and my son was just diagnosed with dyslexia and adhd. I plan to have removable chalkboard wallpaper in his room, so I can write down sight-words he is struggling with, it’ll help him memorizing. He likes to arrange objects he found outside like stones, moss, tree bark etc. into a terrarium like environment, in which he sometime puts a bug in he captured outside. I hope one day to install an aerial hammock one day (once we buy our own home) as outlet for his energy.

    • The chalkboard wallpaper could be a wonderful thing, or not so wonderful. It may telegraph the message to your son that he always has to work on sight words because he is different and he may feel that he never gets a break, even in his own room.

      If he is old enough to learn reading, he’s old enough to have an opinion, you could ask him if he likes the idea.

      If you do go with a chalkboard wall, you can make any color he likes by putting grout in paint. 1 part non-sanded grout to 8 oz latex paint. He may not like the smell, so really low odor paints are good, despite the high cost.

  • Wow, I love this!! Thank you!! My son is 2 and has down syndrome! We are working on changing over his nursery into a “big boy” room, so this is very helpful! Thank you for being inclusive! My son doesn’t walk yet, so I’m trying to include lots of things on the floor level for him to enjoy.

  • This is brilliant! My son is on the spectrum and has refractory epilepsy, SPD and is developmentally delayed. We are constantly tweeting his room to make it more suitable for him and I love the idea of a mini cushioned filled chill out area. ?

  • I wish I had some tips to add.
    Our boy just turned one and we are always appreciative of advice and guides of parents who have “been there”
    This giveaway would be a lovely treat to win.
    Thank you for the tips.

    • p.s. I like your term “differently abled” and will likely use it with our boy (who has Down syndrome)

  • As a parent of a 31 year old autistic woman I want to thank you for this. I’ve let my daughter make her own design choices while filling her space with photos and mementos of things that are important to her. While lots of people don’t get her design choices, they’re her choices and her room gives her a feeling of autonomy.

  • My daughter is 9 weeks old and already getting interested in her environment. I also have a string of colourful ball lights and they’re Ada’s favourite thing to look at, followed quickly by a big photograph of a cactus garden. I’m learning that she doesn’t need “kid decor” but just a safe, happy space where she can explore. Thanks for this post and thanks to all the commenters and their knowledge!

  • yup- this is spot on. Clutter-free is important for everyone but particularly for kids with sensory overload issues. Access and safety is paramount too. I found that not having rugs (dust collectors) and sharp edges (a homemade padded headboard solved that) makes things better too. A clean, spare room with a few key available toys and good sunshine works well for us as a family and for our son.

  • My youngest sister is in a wheelchair. It was definitely a design challenge when helping my mum create a beautiful and functional home. She needs a lot of extra space especially in high traffic areas. Instead of placing bookshelves or consoles along walls that would stick out enough to crowd a wheelchair, we used artwork to create interest. Also rugs are an issue. You can’t have a rug with too high or thick of a pile, but you need one heavy enough that it won’t lift up and get caught in the wheels. There is always a solution for every design problem, you just have to play around and get creative!

  • This is such a wonderful post! Thank you for thinking of all us who are on this journey with our precious children.

  • I love the thoughtfulness of all the design ideas. So important to design & organize around the strengths of our little warriors.

  • What a beautiful room for a beautiful little angel! I guess the only suggestion that I would add is to maybe put up a tee pee or little tent/relaxing little nest area to sit maybe listen to soothing music while reading a book. Could add some aromatherapy as well. I really adore the room that you created for your sweet little girl. Thanks so much for the chance to win. Terri of Two Pink Peas

  • I find that alternating artwork and colors has a very calming affect for my daughter. The different looks tend to take her focus into a better direction. Thank you for the wonderful giveaway!
    erinloves2run at gmail dot com

  • What a beautiful room. When my daughter was younger, I put a lot of things high in closets and cabinets and had her toys on a rotating system. Her climbing skills are better than her awareness of danger, so now I keep many of her favorite toys in bins on the ground and under her bed. The closets are now locked to keep her safe.

  • I have a son with a rare genetic condition, and we have lots of medical equipment scattered through our house. Like many others, I want our home to be beautiful, comfortable and cozy, but it’s hard with ugly equipment in every corner. I still try my best, and all those things are sweet reminders of my son. I especially strongly disliked my son’s hospital bed. It was donated to us and it worked fine, but it was just so depressing to look at. It was brown and made of steel and plastic. It just doesn’t look like it belongs in a home. This summer I took my daughter’s loft bed (while she was at camp, she’s still not happy about that), and sawed off the legs at the right height for me and my husband, and gave it to our son. I love how it turned out! So my tip is to look outside of the box, and don’t be afraid to DIY things. It’s usually a lot more affordable and beautiful.
    Thanks for a great post, and I would love to see more posts like this!

  • My children were adopted from foster care Although we have had them from infants, and they are not biological siblings, there is no difference with the love they share with each other nor the love I feel for them. Due to their difficult births, in utero drug exposure, our children have disabilities that may not always be easily visible. As their hyper-active behaviors are beginning to increase with age, calm soft colors, less “busy-ness” helps their room to be a sanctuary.

  • I am always looking for ways to bring beauty in to my home and create a space where my little guy can feel calm and peace. Thank you for providing inspiration!

  • It might help to have a shelving unit with easy pull out baskets to store toys, books, etc. . . The baskets could be different colors.

  • What a great space! I’m so impressed with the thoughtfulness, I wouldn’t add a thing!

  • I love this!! Thank you for this article. As a mom to a brand new little girl with Down syndrome, it means the world to me that you would talk about our differently abled babies on your blog. I have been a reader for years and years and years! I don’t have any tips as I am only just beginning on this journey – but my Lily would love those goodies! Thanks for making my day :)

  • We are just beginning to plan a space for Caleb that he will share with his older brother. Unlike Eva, Caleb is the youngest. Loved these ideas! Michaele

  • Love this. I too am a special needs mom and disability advocate. (I even did a similar post a while ago with the Land of Nod. High fives!) For my daughter, we have accessibility issues. She is much shorter in stature, doesn’t walk and has shorter arms…so for us it’s all about not being afraid to use things in a different way. For example she’s 6 and sleeps in a toddler bed. It’s a great height and size for her, even though it might not seem like the obvious solution. We also found a book holder that is low and on the floor and try to keep lots of storage easily accessible for her.

  • My daughter who has T21 just turned two so her room isn’t quite bed-ready, but I’m bookmarking this post for ideas as she gets older! Thank you thank you!

  • That bedroom is adorable! I have two little girls with spastic quad CP and my big bedroom challenge is storing and organizing unsightly medical equipment. My husband built them matching corner beds with drawers underneath. ?? Super awesome use of space.

  • Love all the ideas, super cute. My little is just learning to sit at 2 and we have so much on the floor in his reach right now. The room of artwork is something I’m looking forward to. Always looking for room ideas! For holidays I’m on the lookout for ideas on decorating his IV pole. Thank you for the ideas!

  • I love this post! For some children, a tight space with comfortable bedding that they could ball up in might help with sensory challenges. Thanks for all these great tips!

  • Having 2 children, 1 non-verbal austic(age4) and a 14 month old with down syndrom. It can be hard keeping toys separate, its a challenge sometimes to share toys. My tip, is to use color coordinated bins for keeping things separate.

  • Thank you so much for the inspiring and helpful story and advice. As a new mom and a new family doc, I’m keen to glean as many tips as possible on how to both beautify and better my children’s and patients’ environments. I really have found that having time and space reserved for ‘decompression’ and unscheduled play are so integral. Glad to see this highlighted here and to find so many more fabulous ideas.

  • About half of my family is legally blind. My favorite Aunt, when she was tired after a long day, could only really see the color orange. When I planted flower beds for her I used New Year Roses, which are almost neon. If you have a child with visual issues, zero in on the colors they can see best. Also, vary the textures of things, corduroy, velvet, etc. Different rugs (heavy, immobile rugs) in different places in the room are a great way to make navigating easier.

  • My middle son has SPD and developmental delay. Another great tool we use to ease transition from school to home (and get a good night’s rest!) is a weighted blanket! It has made SUCH a difference! But we agree, keeping the toys separated so that he doesn’t get over stimulated and dump them all out in frustration, has been a great help. It also keeps our house of six at a more manageable state.