Lighting: dos and don’ts at home

Lighting: dos and don’ts at home

Recommendation 111
Artificial lighting: provide generous, even and soft lighting
Dimmers for transitions from waking to sleeping.

  • abundant / harsh light
  • fluorescent lighting and its attendant transformer humming
  • high contrast lighting schemes or deep shadow

Chapter (theme)
Interior design (light and sight)

Because of
sensory sensitivity, disturbed perception, Central coherence and sleep disorders

In order to

  • address sensory sensitivity’s for light (and sound-)effects
  • to assist in falling asleep
  • to prevent the familiar, daytime reality from turning into something strange and frightful.

Artificial lighting generally promotes oversight and a sense of security when it is even and relatively soft and not harsh. Strong or harsh lighting, by contrast, produces annoying shadows. Therefore many prefer subdued light of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and dimmers.

An important reason to strive for lighting the whole space is that change of a few elements of a situation may lead to the experience of a whole new situation, because of weak Central coherence. In such a case it’s quite possible that the familiar room of the daytime isn’t recognized at night. Of course the chances of such disorienting experiences rise as the number and size of unlit areas in the room go up.

Another reason for lighting the whole house is shadows can be wrongly perceived. A shadow behind a piece of furniture, for instance, can be seen as a hole in the floor and/or the wall.

Strong fluorescent lighting is to be avoided. Tl is in fact light which flashes rapidly. Because people with Asd often have more acute senses, they can experience a stroboscopic effect, such as in disco’s. Tl-light is usually accompanied by a high whistling–sound above the threshold of the normal ear, but within the reach of many people on the spectrum.
Lindsey Nebeker has this to say about tl-lighting: “White fluorescent tube lighting is (also) painful to my eyes, and leaves me nauseated, irritable, and feeling like I’m visiting an interrogation room.”

Dimmers which help create soft lighting, can also achieve a gradual weakening of the light which is a proven means to stimulate sleep. One of the operant mechanisms is most probably the influence of receding light on melatonin-production (the ‘sleep hormone’). Sleeping disorders are common among people with Asd.

We conclude with a number of additional tips derived from Ahrentzen & Steele:

  • Use indirect lighting to reduce glare
  • Bathrooms should have bright, uniform, shadow-free light and include mirror and shaving lights
  • Rooms should have overhead, recessed lighting as well as task lighting.
  • Include light fixtures in closets for accessibility and to minimize resident frustration
  • In kitchens, provide lighting under cabinets and overhead recessed lighting
  • Provide opportunity to maintain even lighting levels through dimmer switches, easy-to adjust window blinds, etc.


* Lindsey Nebeker

This is just one fragment, admittedly taken out of context from this article about maintaining an Asd-relationship: Nebeker, Lindsey A.,
‘9 Essential Ingredients to Maintaining a Successful Relationship: The ASD Edition’ In: AUTISM Advocate 62(2012)1(Fall) 13-17. To be found here.
Ahrentzen & Steele
Ahrentzen, S. & Steele, K. (2010). Advancing Full Spectrum Housing: Designing for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Board of Regents. (Download here.)