Autism and Classroom Lighting

NaturaLux filters from Make Great Light could help reduce the problems associated with autism and classroom lighting. Life is hard enough having to endure autism day in a day out – having to stay in a classroom all day under harsh fluorescent lighting can make things even worse. You might find fluorescent lighting to be annoying, because it flickers and emits a lot of glare. For someone with autism, those seemingly minor annoyances can be unbearable.

How Harsh Lighting Can Affect a Child with Autism

Autism and Classroom LightingThere is no “one size fits all” autism experience. It affects different children in different ways. For some autistic children, lighting has absolutely no effect. For others, however, it can be incredibly troubling. In some cases, lighting can actually have a calming effect. There are some instances, however, where harsh lighting can over-stimulate an autistic child, and can, in severe cases, even cause eye discomfort. Humming or flickering fluorescent lighting can lead to terrible pain.

If you have an autistic child, and you’re observant, you might be able to see some of the indications that lighting is having a negative effect. Here are some to try to watch out for.

  • The child seems more irritable or angry than normal.
  • Your child finds it extremely difficult to concentrate.
  • He or she wants to get out of a room as quickly as they can.
  • You notice fear in your child, or significant restlessness.
  • The child finds it almost impossible to ignore the lighting in a room.
  • He or she has a heightened heart rate, as well as an increase rate of breathing.

As you probably are already well aware, an autistic child can have a hard time letting you know how they’re feeling. As a result, you might not have any idea they’re having problems with the lighting in their classroom. But if you can pay very close attention to the indications listed above, you might be able to discern when something’s wrong.

Actually, research indicates that changing the type of lighting can help an autistic child to a better job of functioning. In one study, scientists looked at the connection between LED lights and behavior patterns in children in a classroom. One group of children had autism, the other did not.

The researchers conducting the study put slide bars on the lights. Teachers could adjust those bars to either dim or brighten the lighting. The researchers found that not only were the non-autistic children better behaved when the slide bars were used, so were the autistic children.[1]

Why Does Fluorescent Lighting Have Such an Impact on Some Children with Autism?

It really doesn’t matter what kind of lighting it is – if it’s too bright, that can really bother an autistic child. But it seems that fluorescent lighting is the worst kind. Some children with autism are particularly sensitive to light, a condition known as photosensitivity.

According to one study[2], autistic children with photosensitivity are more prone to exhibiting repetitive behaviors when in a room with fluorescent lighting than they would be in a room with incandescent lights. It appears the reason for this behavior is the flickering of fluorescent lighting.

Learn More

An expert with Make Great Light can give you more information about the connection between autism and classroom lighting. We can also show you how our NaturaLux filter may be able to help. Please give us a call at 612-399-6484 or contact us online.


[1] Blankenship, Genoa, LED Lighting Saves Money and Helps Autistic Students, PNNL, 2019

[2] Coulter, Rachel A., OD, COVD, FAAO, Understanding the Visual Symptoms of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, 2009

Light Filters


Four fluorescent light tube covers

Fluorescent tube covers are versatile, durable solution for standard 4′ fluorescent lamps. 

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