Minnesota mom creates calming rooms for people with autism

Minneapolis, MN – Interior designer and mother of two, A.J. Paron-Wildes, has developed design ideas for schools and centers that serve people with autism. She was inspired to research this subject because of her 19-year-old son on the spectrum Devin.

Devin was diagnosed with autism sixteen years ago when Paron-Wildes was a fresh interior design graduate from the University of Minnesota. Devin was barely speaking then, usually communicating with tantrums and meltdowns. she told Winona Daily News,

“He’d drop to the floor and start screaming. We’d have to drop everything and leave.”

She added that taking Devin on errands became too troublesome for her and her husband and he was often left at home. It was then Paron-Wildes decided to put her degree to good use and started researching studies about spaces for children on the spectrum. To her shock, there were none. All the research she did find were from the 1970’s when children on the spectrum were often institutionalized. Wanting to keep her son at home and calm, Paron-Wildes made it her mission to find out what worked well for her son by learning everything she could about the learning difference and it’s affect on the brain.

One break through came when her son was going to speech therapy. The room was filled with noisy kids playing, a huge distraction to Devin. She suggested his lesson be moved to the quite closet. He responded well and his speech acquisition soured.

To find out what colors worked well she had to go by trial and error, looking for cues in her son as to whether the color scheme she picked would work. Thankfully her work has paid off and now she’s designing rooms for people with autism all around her area for free. She even painted several boy’s rooms pink, a soft warm color that does remarkably well.

What’s great about her research is she that discovered you don’t need to redesign the whole house. Just focus on where your child on the spectrum with learn, relax, and sleep. Soft warm colors work best as they offer little distraction while also calm and sooth.

Paron-Wildes also consults with schools, medical facilities, other organizations that work with people on the spectrum. For the front rooms parents often wait in, she chooses vibrant colors.

“One of the biggest complaints in centers is that parents feel like they’re in an institution.”

Paron-Wildes told Winona Daily News, adding that bland colors usually add “to the aloneness and trauma.” Her experience from sixteen years ago echoed that feeling. With the amount of consulting jobs she gets it would be easy for her to focus on this full-time. But she doesn’t want to lose perspective.

The original article by Kim Palmer on the Winona Daily News website can be read here

Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead