As if there aren’t enough good reasons to choose LED lighting fixtures, parents and teachers are discovering yet another benefit delivered by this technology for students with autism. In fact, this may be the most important benefit of all. Homeowners and business owners are making the transition to LED in great numbers, primarily because the technology is so energy-efficient. They save a lot of money in the long run because almost all of the energy is converted to illumination, not to heat.
In addition, LED lighting fixtures give you thousands of hours of use without replacement, a vast improvement over incandescent lights and fluorescent lights. Naturally, this is a great choice for schools, which are also interested in saving money. Yet, those schools get the additional benefit mentioned earlier, one that is more important than holding down costs.
That Major Benefit for People with Autism
People with autism are generally more sensitive to the flickering of fluorescent lighting, a problem that isn’t clearly visible to the naked eye but does exist. Changing from fluorescent to flat-panel LED lighting fixtures saves a school district on energy costs and the lights do not flicker in the classroom occupied by special-needs children. In fact, schools often discover these rooms were over-lit with fluorescent fixtures The electrical engineer in one location was able to eliminate nine fixtures when the changeover was made.
Because the new lighting can be control remotely by the teachers, the level of illumination can be adjusted based on specific needs of each class. The focus on finding the right type of lighting fixtures for those with autism may be an early step in the design of buildings for those who have specific needs. Some architects are beginning to design with the concept of sensitivity to outside stimulation in mind. One of the major focuses in this process is the control of visual stimulation, with proper lighting at the top of the list.
Studies show more than 90% of people with autism spectrum disorder are particularly sensitive to external sensory stimulation, with bright lights being an issue of great concern. More than half of the adolescent individuals studied show a specific sensitivity to light, with some difficulty in processing lighting changes. This leads researchers to believe that the relatively small changes producing flickering in fluorescent lighting fixtures should be eliminated if possible.
LED technology seems to produce the desired results. Autistic individuals struggle to process light because of what researchers believe is a light-reflex “abnormality” in the pupil of the eye. In addition, studies show individuals with autistic-spectrum disorder show differences in the structure of the central nervous system.
School administrators, board members, and maintenance personnel are working with designers and contractors to discover the proper balance of natural light and installed light for people with autism. Individuals with autism seem to be more comfortable, and focus better, in rooms with limited views of the outside, for example. But, these rooms should also be designed using softer colors, reduced noise levels, and comfortable illumination, as provided by LED lighting fixtures.