How To Improve Your Autistic Child's Home Life With A Stair Lift
When severe autism limits your child's ability to move their body, a multi-story house becomes a challenging place rather than a comforting sanctuary. Even autistic children that walk just fine can end up trapped on the first floor if the idea of climbing stairs overloads them. Before renovating your entire interior to fit the needs of your special needs kid, try installing a helpful stair lift and gradually getting your child used to the equipment.
Shop for Safety Features
All stair lift users need basic safety features like sensors that stop the chair if an obstruction is detected, but autistic children benefit from a few extra layers of protection. Look for units with completely covered rail and motor mechanisms so curious kids can't put their fingers in a pinch point. Other important safety features include:
- Removable seat mounted controls so the rider can't change directions in the middle of a ride
- Remote control access with a keyed lock mechanism to give you exclusive control over the lift
- Head, foot, and arm rests with soft straps to help your child stay in the seat even when they can't control their body movements
Pick Adjustable Seat Systems
With a diagnosis of severe autism, your child is likely to struggle with their current mobility or movement issues for the rest of their life. Unless your child uses a wheelchair that connects to the lift, choose a model that allows you to swap out different seats as the rider grows bigger and bigger. Some units accomplish this by adding a lot of padding to the seat for young children, which is slowly removed to give extra space as the years pass by. You don't want to end up with accessibility equipment you need to replace in full every few years over size issues.
Include a Harness
A three or five point harness is a smart addition to arm and head rest straps when you're caring for a kid that has trouble holding still. Again, look for harnesses that adjust from small child to full-grown adult size. Try covering the straps in a printed fabric featuring a favorite cartoon character or animal to make the harness less intimidating.
If a seat is out of the question because it makes the rider feel too confined, look into sling and platform models instead. A large platform lets you stand and hold your child in a position they find comfortable while you both ascend to the upper floors. Sling lifts can offer a comforting pressure around autistic children who respond well to weighted blankets and other common therapies. They also work when a child is incapable of staying in an upright position on their own but won't tolerate harnesses and straps.
Seek Out Grants
Lifts are big pieces of mobility equipment with plenty of installation requirements and a hefty price tag. Seek out funding help from local and national agencies specializing in helping autistic or otherwise disabled children. If you can prove there's no other way for your child to reach the upper floors and you don't have bathrooms or other important rooms on the first floor, you may get the cost covered by your insurance company or Medicaid.
Limit Sensory Stimulation
Finally, don't forget to limit the sensory stimulation produced by the stair lift to help an autistic user feel more comfortable. Noise-blocking headphones dampen the noises produced by the motors and rails, while fuzzy or smooth seat covers tailor the experience to the particular preferences of your child. You can even mount a mobile of colorful shapes and familiar toys from the head rest to give a much-needed distraction from the sensation of rising or falling.
Having a stair lift installed in your home can greatly improve your autistic child's life, especially if you keep this information in mind as you select and install the lift.