The pirate knobs I put on Callum’s captain’s bed drawers.

Earlier this summer, when it was decided that we would move out of our very small home into my father’s (which I inherited following his death in May), I began making plans to decorate Bronwyn and Callum’s bedrooms.  They had been crammed into one tiny bedroom together — which was still pink.  Time and toddlers had wreaked havoc with their room, and it was covered in carpet stains, crayon murals, and frequently broken furniture.  All of their toys, a crib, and a bed – all crammed into one tiny space – made for chaos.  And I was simply too overwhelmed by the hectic pace of working full-time and ferrying Callum to six therapy appointments a week.  Stress leads to chaos and chaos to stress in an endless repeating cycle.

So I’ll admit this mama’s heart was cheered by the thought of creating two beautiful rooms for my babies.  I wanted my little girl to feel like a princess.  And I wanted the opportunity to finally prepare a charming space for a little boy — rather than simply move his crib into his sister’s room.  I started with Bronwyn’s room – picking a lavender and pink butterfly theme.  Then I got to brainstorming Callum’s room.

At some point during my chattering about decor ideas, a couple of people said to me, “Well, Callum won’t really care about his room.”  Which, though that sounds somewhat insensitive, there is a degree of truth to that.  Callum doesn’t care one bit about puppies, undersea, or dinosaur themes.  But the statement and its accompanying reality stung a bit.  It wasn’t meant to hurt.  I think they were just concerned I’d be disappointed if he didn’t react to the room positively (or at all).

But I already knew I wouldn’t get a typical little boy’s reaction.  For my sweet little man isn’t at all typical.  What I also knew was that it didn’t matter to me one bit.  I wanted to give him a beautiful space.  Spacious.  Colorful.  Everything that any little boy deserves.  I can’t give him group sports, an interest in Lincoln logs, or friends.  Those are things he can’t access right now.  Maybe not ever.  Time will tell.  But I could give him a beautiful room.

Virginia Woolf once stated that a woman must have “a room of her own if she is to write fiction”.  No, Woolf wasn’t referring to autistic little boys in her feminist essay on women and fiction.  But her belief that a person must have a personal space in order to be able to grow and create is equally true for all souls.  Perhaps not a literal space, such as a room.  But time to oneself in a place peaceful to the individual.  A place in which one wants to be.

So, I set about giving Callum his place to be.  We chose a pirate theme in deep red, tan, black, and gold.  Found an adorable little bedding set and the accompanying drapes, etc.  A friend traded me her little girl’s captain’s bed for an extra queen we had.  And we painted the drawers the different colors of his bedding and set them off with little pirate knobs I found on eBay.  A net, a ship, some pirate decor, and a big plush shaggy pile red rug for him to roll around on in sensory bliss.

No, he didn’t give us the joyous reaction that his sister did — at first.  He needed to take it all in.  But, within just a few minutes, he began flapping a bit.  And within an hour he was gleefully bouncing on his new bed.  (Yes, I know I’m a terrible mother.  Don’t write me.)  He found his favorite helicopter — and the attached string he likes to whip about.  And – wait for it – he has peacefully slept (and stayed) in his new big boy bed every night.  All night long.

Mama and daddy slept all night long too.

And so my little boy now has a room of his own.  No, he doesn’t care about pirates.  But he knows this is his room.  A room in which he can grow, dream, and wonder.   To flap, stim, and – yes -bounce on the bed.  A place to go when ordered by his 5 year-old big sister to get out of her room.  He likes it.  He’s happy.

And that is the root of every prayer in every mother’s heart, now isn’t it?

23 responses »

  1. My son Daniel, (autistic, almost 8 years old.) came in here while I was reading/watching this post. He asked if he could watch Callum in his new room. Daniel watched it a couple of times with a great big smile on his face. He does love to study rooms so he studied the new room and asked me all kinds of questions of which, I could not answer unless I was actually in the house. Lol!

    The really awesome part was when he said, “I like that boy.” and then said, ” I am happy with him.” It was a great moment that I just had to share with you. Daniel was non-verbal up to almost 4 and half. This was amazing to hear him use his expressive language like that and share in the joy with Callum.

    This is a wonderful post and thank you for sharing your videos! 🙂

  2. yoongz says:

    Lovely! Lovely! Well Done! So wonderful to see both kids so happy with their new rooms 🙂

  3. makyahj says:

    There rooms are so wonderful! I’m glad Callum likes his room and has his own space to just be himself. Thank you for sharing the videos. Both of your children are beautiful. They’re lucky to have a mom like you.

  4. Emily says:

    This is the sweetest!!! Their reactions are adorable and I love the pirate theme and dresser! Lots of love to all of you and here’s to a good nights sleep!!

  5. Anne says:

    You are an AWESOME Mom!! My prayers are with you.

  6. Callum is ADORABLE and he doesn’t know how lucky he is to have you for a mom!

  7. Great job Leigh! I love how it all came together. It looks even better than I pictured 🙂

  8. Sandi says:

    My son didn’t have a whole lot of input on his “bed area” (he refuses to use the word “room” unless it’s at school – I don’t know why) until we moved here to MD. Now, he likes to decorate it with things. Tape-able things. Things he can change on his own. It’s so COOL to see the kids get involved with their environment. 🙂

    I love that your little guy enjoys his space!

  9. I can relate to “Stress leads to chaos and chaos to stress in an endless repeating cycle”… I’ve found that too over the years with my daughter, as doing decorating on top of everything else is tiring. We have stained carpets and messing looking walls… We even had a broken bicycle in the hallway on one occasion. There are boxes everywhere!!! I’m so glad you’ve had the opportunity to make beautiful spaces for Callum and Bronwyn because not only is that lovely for them… it is for you too by seeing their reactions. Jump on the bed Callum!!! Jump for joy!!!! :o))))

  10. Silvia says:

    Congratulations! The room looks fantastic and I hope the people that told you he wouldn’t care about his room see the video, because he’s obviously really happy with his new space. In my opinion he just shows it in a different, equally valid way. I also loved the part where he rubs the covers because my 4 year old does that too when he’s feeling great so I figure Callum must be feeling very pleased as well. I’m very happy for him, and for all of you. He’s adorable by the way, what a beautiful smile 😉

  11. Maybe he doesn’t know exactly how much effort you put into his room (then again, maybe he does, who knows?) but I took a bit of issue with the people who said he wouldn’t care about his room or what it is like. Maybe I’m wrong, because I’m certainly not an expert on autism (that’s why I read this blog, because I want to understand as much as I can), but it seems to me that autism isn’t about not caring. It seems more as if what gets their attention, and what they care about, varies from what neurotypicals think should be important at the time, from their perspective. I’m oversimplifying, I know, but that’s sort of the impression I’ve been getting.

    It’s an awesome room, and I’m digging the carpet the most. So plush, red, and soft. Actually, the whole room has an incredible array of textures and a nice blend of colors. Judging from Callum’s reaction, I bet he thinks so, too.

    The best part is that smile. Definitely.

  12. says:

    I don’t know who wrote this article but it is the exact same thing that happened to my husband and I this past summer. My two boys shared a room. They both have their own room and my eight year old that is autistic loves his room he goes to bed with out a tight and sleeps all night in his own bed. And for the record, I commend you for letting him jump on the bed. My family and friends think I am horrible because I teach my boys to walk in puddles and jump on beds. I. Just think that’s what’s makes being a kid wonderful. I am 38 and my husband will tell you if it rains and there is a puddle around, I will go out of my way to walk through it. It reminds me to still be a kid with my boys and its those moments my boys will remember.

    Sent via the HTC Vivid™, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

  13. wishing you many adventures in your new room Callum Arrrrr Matey!!

  14. Love it! He looks so happy in there on his big boy bed 🙂 My mom “gifted” me with her mother’s bed… if I so much as bounced in a sitting position once, I would get yelled at. Lucky for me, we had an mattress in the basement. 🙂 And he does care that it’s his room. He may not be able to tell you in words what colors he wants, or whether the decorations and theme is to his interests, but the fact that you took the time and energy to help him have his own space, that means a lot. And that rug looks fantastic! 🙂 You can see how happy he is in his space, and I’m sure his comfort will grow as time goes on and he gets used to and explores his new space. 🙂

  15. Joanna says:

    What a fantastic room you’ve created for him! All your hard work has really paid off, not only with the look of the room but the fact that your precious boy knows it is his space and comfortably, peacefully sleeps there. So happy for you all 🙂

  16. Becky says:

    Cute room for a cute boy! Well done. Can I hire you to come over and do my daughters’ rooms? 😉

    (P.S. I am a super Nervous Nelly kind of mom and wonder if there is any risk with that netting on the wall? Just want that beautiful boy to be 100% safe in his room, as I know you do, too. Please don’t be offended but sometimes people don’t recognize safety issues until it’s too late so just wanted to make sure there’s no way he can get tangled in that.)

  17. Lynne Pardi says:

    The kids’ new rooms sound fabulous!! I’m sure Callum is very happy in his own special space. Re jumping on the bed, my boys did it too, and I let them! I figured that Jay needed the sensory feedback; and, I couldn’t allow him to jump and not allow Eric! (Besides– I used to jump on my bed as a kid and it’s a happy memory!) God bless your new home!

  18. Karie Ghammashi says:

    I think he loves it, and I loved your post! My favorite part of the video is when he is lying in the bed rubbing the covers. You did an outstanding job on his room too, it’s a room any little boy would be proud to have!!

  19. jimreeve says:

    That’s great. I’m sure your son will grow in many new directions because of his new room. My son loved his new room when he first saw it. It was blue and we put spider man decals on the walls. It even helped him relax, which helped him sleep better too.

  20. Mama D says:

    How wonderful that he understands that this is HIS space and that it makes him happy. Good job, Mom. 😉

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