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Atypical Color Preferences: Creating Autism-Friendly Spaces

April marks Autism Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and understanding about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a complex neurodevelopment disorder that affects communication, social interaction, behavior, and sensory processing. It is characterized by a wide range of symptoms and challenges that can vary from person to person. During this month, the world seeks to illuminate the diverse needs and experiences of individuals on the autism spectrum. Amidst the discussions, one aspect often understated is the influence of color psychology in creating autism-friendly spaces. While many factors contribute to supporting individuals with ASD, the role of color in sensory experiences is significant and can profoundly impact well-being.


Colors possess the remarkable ability to evoke emotional responses and influence mood, making them invaluable tools for shaping sensory environments and enhancing the overall quality of everyday life for individuals with autism. In this article, we will explore atypical color preferences and discover how they can be leveraged to create more supportive and inclusive spaces for individuals on the autism spectrum. 


Color Perception and Autism Spectrum Disorder


Children with ASD often perceive colors in unconventional ways compared to neurotypical children. Individuals on the autism spectrum experience heightened sensory processing difficulties, including sensitivity to light, sound, textures, taste, and other stimuli including color. These sensory processing differences can make certain colors that may look vibrant and playful to one child seem intense and uncomfortable to a child with autism. Recognizing the difference in perception becomes imperative to minimize sensory triggers and design spaces that offer comfort, alleviate stress, and promote overall safety within educational settings, at home, or within the broader community.   



Letters spelling out autism on a colorful background of rainbow dots


Best Color Options for Autism-Friendly Space


With a deeper understanding of the difference in perception of color for children with autism, we can now recommend those that are most beneficial. Opting for soft, muted tones and duller shades such as a range of pastels is often the preferred approach. These hues are known for their calming properties offering a soothing ambiance, playing a vital role in reducing overstimulation. 


Specific Hues That Minimize Sensory Triggers

  • Greens  

  • Blues 

  • Lilac 

  • Pale Yellow 

  • Soft pink  

  • Warm Cream  

These specific hues have been shown to mitigate sensory overload, promote relaxation, and facilitate emotional regulation creating a sense of security and peace for individuals with autism. 


It is important to note here to avoid stark white, this is not considered autism-friendly as its harshness can cause agitation and unease and is often associated with visits to environments such as doctors' offices, potentially triggering an unwanted reaction. 


Colors To Avoid for Autism-Friendly Space


As we have discovered, while there are numerous autism-friendly colors to consider, it is equally important to be mindful of those to avoid when designing an autism-friendly space. Vibrant, highly saturated hues, particularly colors like red and yellow, can elicit feelings of distraction, and discomfort, and potentially trigger sensory overload for individuals on the autism spectrum. Additionally, intense color contrasts can lead to feelings of disorientation and promote negative associations, potentially exacerbating sensory sensitivities and increasing stress levels.  


Specific Hues That Heighten Sensory Triggers

  • Yellows

  • Reds

  • White

  • Neons  


Selection Process for Your Space 


The selection process involves assessing how colors impact emotions and tailoring them to meet specific needs and objectives within the designated space. Consideration should be given to the individuals who will inhabit the space, addressing their individual or group needs, as well as any personal triggers that may need to be accommodated. While these considerations provide a foundation, whether you are a caregiver, parent, or clinician, investing time in thoughtful color selection can yield significant benefits for all involved.  


Conclusion


Whether you are designing an autism-friendly playroom, bedroom, or treatment center, there is a color suited for every purpose! By carefully considering the psychological effects of different hues, you can create environments that promote comfort, emotional stability, and overall wellness for individuals on the autism spectrum.   

 


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