Neurodiversity doctors urge parents to consider their home lighting to reduce children's mood swings

A new study from Dowsing & Reynolds has revealed how to create a more neurodivergent-friendly lighting scheme within the home, following the brand partnering with several leading neurodiversity experts. Read on to find out how the lighting in your home is impacting your child's ADHD and autism...

With 70 per cent of the sensory receptors in our bodies being in our eyes, poor lighting can lead to issues such as sensory overload, low mood and anxiety.

To uncover exactly how to create a more neurodivergent-friendly lighting scheme in the home, alongside how to reduce triggers, interior experts and lighting brand, Dowsing & Reynolds have partnered with several neurodiversity experts to shed light on the matter…

How poor lighting can affect neurodivergent individuals

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Dr Becky Spellman, Psychologist and Founder at Private Therapy Clinic explains that poor lighting choices can lead to sensory overload, increased anxiety, difficulties with concentration and disruptions to sleep patterns and explains how prolonged exposure can continue to make the issues worse on a mental and physical level. “Prolonged exposure to unsuitable lighting can exacerbate these issues, leading to heightened stress levels and overall discomfort, affecting mental and emotional health.”

In more extreme instances, Dr Fluer-Michelle Coiffait, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Spectrum.Life says that an individual can be triggered with a ‘fight or flight’ response and urges to take appropriate lighting into consideration ““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 an individual is being triggered by bad lighting

How neurodivergent individuals react when they find an aspect of their environment challenging can differ from person to person, however, Dr Coiffait does advise there are some telltale signs to look for:

  1. Increased Movement - The individual may become more agitated, restless, or fidgety. They may show heightened physical movements or restlessness as a response to the aspects of the environment they are finding challenging.

  2. Anxiety or Panic- You may see signs of increased anxiety or panic, such as crying, curling into a ball or seeking comfort. Other more subtle signs of distress can include freezing, hiding, rapid breathing, shaking or trembling.

  3. Sensory Blocking- Individuals may seek to reduce sensory information coming in by covering their eyes or ears, closing their eyes, shouting, screaming, covering themselves up with something, curling into a ball or retreating into a small, protective space.

    By trying to ‘block out’ they may provide their own competing or replacement sensory, such as making loud noises themselves, or seeking out heavy touch, pressure or hugs.

How to create a safe lighting environment for those with:


Helen Neale, Editor for Kiddy Charts and Counsellor, mother to three neurodivergent children says: “It is all about reducing distractions, so quiet lighting (some can hum of course), as well as flickering lights which can cause a bit of a problem with focusing on that rather than what ADHDers want to focus on. A calm, steady lighting environment might be beneficial.”

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Dr Spellman adds: “ADD/ADHD: Individuals with ADD/ADHD may have difficulties with attention and focus, and lighting that is too bright or distracting can make it challenging for them to concentrate.

“Recommendations for individuals with ADD/ADHD include using soft, diffused lighting, minimising visual clutter in the environment, and adding in natural elements such as plants or views of nature to promote calmness and focus.”


Dr Neale advises: “The autistic brain can kick in the fight, flight or freeze if it becomes overwhelmed. If we get the environment right so it isn't disabling then our kids are in the right place so they can learn, or we are able to work and concentrate.

“It is often the environment that disables the autistic brain, so with the lighting right, and other sensory needs met, that wonderful creativity within can shine through.

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“The most important is adjustable lighting so that autistic people feel in control of their environment and can match their sensory needs that can sometimes change from hour to hour, it depends on how overwhelmed their senses get.

“It might be that they benefit from coloured lights and/or filters too, as some autistic people can find certain colours soothing.”


Dr Spellman: “Individuals with dyslexia may struggle with reading and processing written information, and harsh lighting or glare can exacerbate these difficulties.

“They should try soft, diffuse overhead lighting to reduce glare, avoiding overhead fluorescent lighting, and ensuring that the lighting is consistent throughout the space to minimise distractions.”

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People with dyspraxia often have difficulties with coordination and spatial awareness, and bright or flickering lights can be overwhelming for them.

“They should use warm, soothing lighting, with brighter lighting for focused activities, whilst minimising clutter and visual distractions.”


Dr Spellman continues: “Individuals with dyscalculia struggle with mathematical concepts and processing numbers, and lighting that is too bright or harsh can make it challenging for them to concentrate on numerical tasks.

“They should use neutral or warm lighting, providing task-specific lighting for numerical activities, and ensuring that the lighting is consistent and even throughout the space.”


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Dr Spellman: “People with dysgraphia have difficulties with writing and fine motor skills, and lighting that is too bright or dim can affect their ability to see and produce written work.

“They should use adjustable lighting options, providing ample natural light when possible, and using brighter lighting for writing activities.”

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