Sensory processing aids may help children with autism spectrum disorders cope with environmental stresses and improve their mood. Ambient lighting may not always be controllable, but with light-up gloves and other sensory toys that put colorful lights at a child's fingertips, kids have a new way to self-soothe. LED lights are excellent sensory toys for boys and girls with ASD as they are compact, cool to the touch and easy to control. Our suggestions for how to incorporate lighting in environments and use light toys for children with ASD can give kids new, safer coping skills.
How Lighting Affects Kids with ASD
Sight is our primary sense, and it depends on lighting. For people with sensory processing disorders, getting lighting right is a high priority. Notice how the child reacts to different kinds of light and replicate the environments that seem most comfortable.
Lighting that buzzes or flickers can be distracting for anyone. For a child on the autism spectrum, it can be overwhelming or frightening. In the home, parents can replace bulbs and add dimmer switches to ensure lighting is unobtrusive. Each child has his or her own preferences for lighting. Some children like brilliant white light, while others are more comfortable with dimmer, warmer lighting. During the day, pay attention to sunlight streaming in through windows. A child may not be able to say why strong afternoon light causes agitation, but filtering the sun through blinds could offer a simple solution.
When taking children to a doctor's office, library or other professional setting, it may not be possible to have complete control over the lighting in the area. Children who are sensitive to light often find such trips difficult without some way to comfort themselves. Bringing along a familiar, controllable source of light is one effective coping strategy. LED light gloves that adjust to provide a gentle play of colors provide a focal point that helps children with autism manage the stream of sensory input they experience.
Helping Children with Autism Gain Control with Light
One of the challenges children and adults face with autism spectrum disorders is an aversion to change. Because their sensory processing centers are less able to tune out and filter background input, they need ways to control that input directly. Being able to muffle a strident sound or move away from an unpleasant tactile sensation is paramount to an autistic child's comfort.
Many children with ASD turn to other ways to distract themselves with repetitive behaviors, some of which can become socially limiting. Flapping, vocalizing and rocking are common ways to self-soothe, but these behaviors can isolate a child from his or her peers. Other comfort mechanisms, such as head-banging, scratching and excessive rubbing, may even be unsafe. To give children greater control over their behavior and help them self-soothe in safer ways, we can look to modern technology.
With LED light gloves, kids can control the soothing patterns of colorful light at their fingers. Smooth and wire-free, the gloves present no sensory challenges for most kids with ASD while providing a sensory focus. For kids who flap or make other repetitive hand gestures, LED light-up gloves can help them stay still and watch the light show. Other children learn to move their hands in more controlled ways to enjoy the lights. Because LEDs are unbreakable and remain cool to the touch, they are safe enough for use in light toys for children.
Lighting and Mood
For a child on the autism spectrum, there is often beauty in the simplicity of routine. The world may be an overwhelming place, but a favorite cartoon or picture book offers a happily familiar story told in cheerful colors. Knowing what happens next is comforting. Light-up toys with LEDs in clear, pure colors that shift in predictable patterns are soothing when other sensory input becomes a bit too much for a child.
Colored light itself has a significant effect on mood. Studies have shown that office workers' enthusiasm and productivity changed depending on the color of the lighting, not just its intensity. Psychologists have known for some time that we respond physically to certain colors, which is why we so often see reds and yellows in food advertising and calming blues for healthcare services. If we're readily affected by color, kids with ASD often feel the impact even more strongly, reacting with delight at a favorite shade or declaring anything yellow off-limits.
LEDs in light-up gloves can shift seamlessly from color to color or glow with a single hue. They create a compact, controlled version of mood lighting, allowing a child to experience light and color on their own terms. We recommend these flash gifts for anyone who knows a child with ASD who might enjoy a hand-held light show.