Autism in a New Light: The Benefits of Sensory Lighting

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Seeing the world through the eyes of someone else is a very important skill in life. But do you ever consider that the normal world you see around you can potentially be an entirely different world than yours?

How we see the world is an important factor in how we excel at different activities in our life. Making friends and playing sports, for example, can be either simple or difficult based on our perception of our surroundings. That is what makes Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), a disorder that affects many individuals with autism, ever more important to understand and treat.

Dr. A. Jean Ayres, occupational therapist and neuroscientist, feels like SPD is best symbolized as a “traffic jam” within the brain. To those with SPD, certain parts of the brain cannot receive the information needed to process incoming sensory inputs from the surrounding environment.  The most concerning aspect of SPD is how it can negatively impact an individual’s life. Those diagnosed with the disorder are at higher risk of anxiety, depression, aggression and difficulty in developing motor skills.

Parents with children that experience the disorder are no stranger to occupational therapy, which aims to appropriate responses to sensation so that children can behave more functionally in a variety of environments beyond their comfort zones. In fact, efforts to treat SPD by means of occupational therapy can be bolstered by actions that parents take to continue therapeutic sensory experiences at home. Sensory items, like bubble tanks or swings, can be extremely beneficial for children to have in their homes.

One of the most notable sensory therapy methods are sensory lights. Sensory mood lighting has been used in various studies, and researchers unanimously agree that various colors of light can positively affect people’s moods and attitudes, when used correctly. Harsh, bright lights and flickering lights often have a counter-effect on a child’s focus and calmness. However, sensory lights are adjustable so that the best, unique light settings can be used to soothe each individual user.

Sensory mood lighting can be used in rooms to create a safe haven where those on the spectrum can stimulate and balance their sensory systems. Moreover, the lighting can make children much happier, a perk that all parents would love to see. Companies like Valuelights, a Manchester-based lighting company, strive to provide a fun variety of lighting options to the public. For example, the company creates bubble tanks that emit different colors of light. (To learn more about what their company offers, check out their website:http://www.valuelights.co.uk/novelty-lights/sensory-lights.html)

While it may be difficult to picture exactly how those with SPD view the world, we should focus on is how we can make the world a better place for them. The least we can do is show them that the world is a much brighter place than it may seem.

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