Like many parents, Wendy Valente didn’t begin 2020 thinking she’d have to turn her dining room into a classroom or her living room into an office space.
Yet that’s exactly what she’s had to do in the past few months, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Valente was up for the challenge. She owns Live Well Designs, offering window treatments and interior design services, and specializing in designing interiors for those with autism and sensory processing disorder.
She has three daughters: 7-year-old Hailey and 3-year-old twins Lidia and Madison. Her oldest is autistic and has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which inspired Valente’s design specialty.
“I’m finding it very important now that our children have been home full time and, for the majority of our special-needs children, have not had any services or minimal services over the past six months, my daughter included,” Valente said when The Gazette interviewed her this summer.
“Through design, I can at least make her home more comfortable. So I bring her into the design a lot. I ask her, ‘What do you like?’ That way we’re not painting or getting her something that she hates. Her preferences are very specific and we need to, as much as we can, cater to them, especially right now.”
Designing interiors for people with autism, sensory processing disorders or ADHD is an emerging niche, though it’s something that can make a big difference. Valente hopes to help other parents make their homes more accommodating for their children and family members who are autistic, and she recently created a course to walk parents through some sensory-based design solutions.
It’s become more important than ever that her own home be comfortable for her children, since they’ve been spending much more time there.
This past spring, when schools across the state switched to distance learning because of COVID-19, Valente restructured one of her home’s office spaces so she could home-school the kids there and get her own work done.
She quickly found the space was just not large enough and decided to move all home-schooling activities to the dining room.
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“We have a small bookcase that’s built into the kitchen that I put all of our stuff on. All of the things that we need to educate on a daily basis, we put there. [It’s a] little bit easier for me to keep things organized. The kids are allowed to grab the coloring books and markers whenever they want to as long as they clean them up,” Valente said.
Her office space, as well as her husband’s, has also changed quite a bit since the start of the pandemic.
At first, they both worked at a drafting desk, which proved to be too small. Then they both moved to the living room, but it got too chaotic when they both had to make video calls and watch the kids.
Finally, Valente set up a desk for her husband in their bedroom and created an office nook for herself in the living room.
“Things have evolved a lot here. I think that’s probably how it’s happened with everybody. We were just first thrown into this, that’s what we had to do. But now that it’s been six months, we’ve had to evolve,” Valente said.
While many people have returned to work, and most area students have returned to school for at least a few days per week, Valente knows it’s still a good idea to prepare for things to shut down once again.
“With that anticipation of schools closing again, I think that we definitely need to have a plan in place to adapt a space into your home-school office if you will, or create a space in the house designated for them. Because at any time we could be in that lurch again. We’ve had time to think about it now, so I think that we should just prepare,” Valente said.
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