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Experts Shed Light on Neurodivergent-Friendly Lighting Schemes

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Interior and lighting specialists Dowsing & Reynolds has teamed up with neurodiversity experts to unveil strategies for creating neurodivergent-friendly lighting in homes. This initiative addresses the sensory needs of individuals with neurodivergent conditions, recognising that a staggering 70% of our sensory receptors are located in our eyes.

Highlighting the adverse effects of poor lighting, Dr Becky Spellman, psychologist and founder of the Private Therapy Clinic, emphasises its potential to cause sensory overload, anxiety, concentration issues, and sleep disruptions. She warns: “Prolonged exposure to unsuitable lighting can exacerbate these issues, leading to heightened stress levels and overall discomfort, affecting mental and emotional health.”

Dr Fleur-Michelle Coiffait, consultant clinical psychologist at Spectrum.Life, further explains that inadequate lighting can trigger “fight or flight” responses in neurodivergent individuals. Stressing the importance of suitable lighting, she advises, “Appropriate lighting promotes focus, concentration, wellbeing, comfort, and overall functioning. It is essential to recognise the diverse sensory needs of neurodivergent individuals and create environments that are accessible, welcoming and inclusive.”

Signs of distress triggered by inadequate lighting

According to Dr Coiffait, neurodivergent individuals’ reactions to challenging environmental aspects can vary, but there are some common signs to look for:

  1. Increased movement. Agitation, restlessness, or heightened physical movements may be evident.
  2. Anxiety or panic. Symptoms may include crying, seeking comfort, or more subtle signs like trembling or rapid breathing.
  3. Sensory blocking. Actions such as covering eyes or ears, retreating into small spaces, or seeking heavy touch or pressure may be employed to ‘block out’ overwhelming sensory input.

Creating a neurodivergent-friendly lighting environment

For those with ADHD/ADD, Helen Neale, editor for Kiddy Charts and a mother of three neurodivergent children, recommends “quiet lighting” to reduce distractions and enhance focus. Dr Spellman advises soft, diffused lighting to minimise visual clutter and promote calmness for individuals with ADD/ADHD.

Addressing autism, Dr Neale emphasises the importance of adjustable lighting to give autistic individuals control over their environment. “Adjustable lighting and possibly coloured lights or filters, as some autistic people find certain colours soothing, are key to creating an accommodating environment,” she notes.

For dyslexia/dysgraphia, Dr. Spellman suggests soft, diffuse overhead lighting to reduce glare and distractions. She recommends warm lighting for dyspraxia, with brighter lighting for focused activities, and for dyscalculia, neutral or warm task-specific lighting.

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