Tips & Tricks: Designing for All Abilities

In addition to working with ANSHI, I am Raegan’s nanny. Working with her has taught me a lot about all abilities. Despite living with Rett Syndrome, Raegan is your average 6-year-old. She is non-verbal, so she uses a speech device, eyes, signs, her body, as well as verbalizations to communicate. She lets me know when she wants to play, read, go outside, and when she feels sick or hurt. She laughs when you make silly faces, and smiles and claps when she hears singing. Raegan is becoming more and more independent each and every day. With independence comes her ability to safely navigate her surroundings. So designing her room for all abilities was extremely important.

First up, consider displaying toys as much as possible. By using a board and hooks to rotate a display of toys. That way, she can walk over and easily look at what she is interested in.

Creating “safe” zones is also key. There should be areas with tables and ledges that are at the right height to grab on to. Adding squishy floor mats and soft bean bag chairs (that she can’t jump off of) also helps.

 

The room also features a full-size dollhouse to store and display more toys and encourage make-believe play. As with any kid, you have to find what works for them and the larger the toy the better for Raegan's engagement and attention! She can stand and play, and then we transition to the mat for more involved play such as tea-party time!

Her favorite toy is a piano set up in the living room on a table that is for her height. That way she can easily walk to it or look over to play. Through play, Raegan can work on balance at the same time as hitting keys and making music!

A desk with interactive toys, paper, and crayons is great for school time so she has a place to dedicate learning too. Finding a chair that helps with posture is important as well. Using a slanted booster seat leans her back so she doesn’t slide off the chair.

The most important thing to remember is that all kids love to have fun, so incorporating spaces that modify layout and displays for greater engagement is really key!

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