Remaining calm becomes difficult when people are flooded with emotions or stimuli. Calming down corners provide a safe place to relax and process upsetting events. They also teach important self-calming skills that are useful for people who have autism, sensory issues, anxiety, or anger issues. Even neurotypicals can benefit from the ability to take a break.
EditCreating the Corner
- Set aside a corner in the building. Pick a place that will be quiet, with little activity from people passing through. Barriers (walls, plants, furniture) that block off parts of the room are especially helpful.
- Make the area comfortable. Pillows, blankets, weighted blankets, stuffed animals, beanbag chairs, and soft rugs all make the place feel more relaxing.
- Find ways to minimize sensory input. Try a radio with a white noise CD, chairs with large backs to block the view, curtains, and other ways to isolate the corner.
- Some people like to curl up underneath or behind objects. Try creating a makeshift tent, or using furniture in unconventional ways.
- Add a few sensory tools. This could involve...
- Audio: a radio with soothing nature sounds or instrumental music
- Visual: Drawings with the user's favorite color, snow globes, photo albums, blankets/pillows in calming colors
- Tactile: Fidget toys with various textures, and soft stuffed animals or pillows
- Olfactory/Gustatory: Lollipops, hard candies, candles, sweet-smelling lotions or soaps, chewy toys or jewelry
- Proprioceptive:Weighted blankets, beanbags, deep pressure vests, brushes, lotion
- Place some basic activities in the corner. This provides something to do while calming down. Examples include books, sketchbooks, stim toys, coloring books, puzzles, logic games, et cetera. Take special interests into account when choosing activities.
- Try out the corner when you aren't stressed. Sit in the corner for 20 minutes before bedtime, and see if you have enough activities to keep you occupied. Try to imagine what you might need or want when you are stressed.
- Remember that when you need to use the corner, you may be too stressed or overloaded to grab additional activities. The corner should have enough to keep you occupied at any given time.
EditTeach Family Members About the Corner
- Explain the basic purpose of the corner. If you're autistic, explain what sensory overload is, or show them an article or two. Emphasize the need for limited sensory stimuli during recovery.
- Ask them not to interact with you when you are using the corner. Disruptions, however well-meaning, only worsen sensory overload and distress. Explain that they should only interrupt you with urgent matters (e.g. an appointment in ten minutes), and save other things for later (e.g. the cool rock your sister found in the backyard). For minor questions, such as what you want for supper, they should choose for you.
- Ask them to avoid making noise nearby when you are in the corner. For example, if the corner is next to the master bedroom, it would be a bad time for your mother to start rearranging the bedroom furniture or watch a TV show with the volume up high.
- Come up with a plan for when you need to use the corner. Should you choose a code word to say that you need the corner? If you are autistic and become nonverbal, can you develop a hand signal to indicate that?
- Tell them you're happy to interact after you're done using the corner. This helps them understand that it isn't personal; you're just overwhelmed at the time and are open to hearing from them later.
EditTeaching Children to Use the Corner
- Take the child aside and show them the corner. Explain that this corner is a place you put together just for them, and that it is there for them whenever they are feeling overwhelmed or upset. Make it clear that they can go there whenever they want.
- Accustom your child to the idea of the corner. Depending on the individual child, it may take time for them to understand the concept. Here are some ways to help your child understand:
- Allow your child to explore the corner when they are feeling calm. Keep it open-ended, and let them play with the toys.
- Talk about meltdown management with your child. Explain that going to the corner can help them feel better.
- Use social stories to demonstrate correct use of the corner.
- When the child appears upset or overwhelmed, quietly ask if they would like to use the calming down corner. If the child says yes, lead them to it. Once the child is accustomed to the corner, they will usually agree to go if they are upset, or even decide on their own that they need to use it.
- Remember that the calming down corner is not a time-out or punishment, but a voluntary opportunity to take a break and calm down.
- When the child is in the corner, give them quiet time. Avoid talking to them or making noise nearby. Leave the room if the child is old enough to be alone, and read a book or magazine on the other side of the room if not. If ambient noise cannot be helped, turn up the white noise in the corner.
- Let the child leave the corner when they are ready. Congratulate them on using the corner so calmly, and ask if they are feeling better now. Then talk about any problems that preceded the incident, and resume the day.
- If other people aren't understanding or accommodating of your needs, try showing them articles. Reading this article, or one of the related wikiHows, may help them understand why you need quiet.
- Don't push children who seem confused or reluctant about the corner. They will come to it once they understand and feel ready.
- Enforce the calmness of the calm down corner. If other people are disrupting the quiet, firmly tell them to stop, and dole out punishments if need be. Teach children that it is not okay to bother the person in the corner.
- If you would like, you could also play music or audiobooks. Some school libraries loan Playaways, which are IPod-like devices with an entire unabridged book.
- Don't locate the corner in a room that gets a lot of traffic, or next to a room that is frequently noisy. This will make it unpleasant to use and much less effective.
- Never use the calming down corner as a punishment for children. They will associate it with negative feelings and stop wanting to use it. The corner should always be peaceful and voluntary.
- Be wary of fire hazards. Don't place flammable papers or blankets near a heater, and candles should be used only under adult supervision.
- If you have an autistic child at risk for eloping, it's especially important that you keep the corner a quiet, calm place where they can escape. If it's not peaceful, then they may leave the house in order to try to find somewhere quieter, and they could get lost.
- Cope With Sensory Integration Disorder
- Reduce Sensory Overload
- Concentrate While There Are Background Noises
- Make a Calm Down Corner (9 15 Years Old)
- Calm Down by Using Your Senses
- Deal with Autistic Children's Meltdowns
- Use Calming Techniques to Help Autistic People
- Avoid Meltdowns
EditSources and Citations
- "Avoiding Crises with Respectful Parenting" by Dr. Jonine Biesman
- Autism Tips for Parents and Aides