Everyone has a favorite color or a set of colors they like. That color may bring them joy or peace or remind them of a particular memory or activity. We fill our home with colors we like or colors that bring certain moods to specific rooms. We decorate, we paint, and we coordinate, but what effect does color have?
In honor of National Color Therapy month, let’s look at what color therapy is, how color affects children with autism and how we can use color therapy in our everyday lives.
“Color Therapy, or chromotherapy, is based on the idea that color and colored lights can help treat physical or mental health. According to this idea, they cause subtle changes in our moods and biology.”
For example, being in a dark room with a fluorescent light may cause anxiety, while being in a warm-colored room with plants would bring a sense of peace.
Children with autism are no different when it comes to colors. They may even be more susceptible to specific colors because their senses react differently than children without autism. This is because children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have abnormalities in their eye structure. “Due to some chemical imbalances and neural deficits, the rod cells and cone cells present in their eyes experience different changes. Many studies have revealed that 85% of children with autism perceive colors more intensely than other children.”
A child with autism will experience louder sounds and brighter lights than most children, making bright primary colors difficult for them to process. Some colors, like red, can even give a sense of pain or anguish.
Parents will find that their child may respond better to dull and pale colors, like blue or pink. Others will discover purple or orange to be calming for their child. The difference can depend on how hyperactive the child can be in an environment. A calm, introverted child will find some primary colors to be soothing. Therefore, those colors can be used in their everyday environment. Hyperactive children might get triggered by bright colors and may need dull and pale colors in their daily environment to focus.
Colors and How Children with Autism Perceive Them
Decorating an autistic child’s room or classroom is more than just coordinating colors or decorating for a season. It is pairing the right soothing colors to promote focus and learning. These colors may vary from child to child, but some colors have a universal perception.
So how will most children with Autism Spectrum Disorder perceive these primary colors?
Seen as calming and even saddening in some cases, blue can provide stress relief for children. “Chroma therapy uses light blue tones for treating pain, depression, and sadness while the darker shades of blue are used for sedative purposes for treating insomnia.” Blue represents many different feelings like spirit or freedom. For others, it may mean a sense of wellness.
Orange is considered to be a happy color that draws attention to itself. “Color therapy states that orange can be used to stimulate appetite, mental activity, and cheerful emotions. Hence orange can be a comfort color to those who have food sensitivities.”
The color green is considered a cool-toned color. “Green helps to relax the nervous system and lessens feelings of stress. It seems to help with communication and developing speech skills. Cool colors may be a good choice for individuals where reducing stimulation is a high priority, such as those with ADHD or the hypersensitive variation of autism.”
Pink is seen as a favorite among children with autism, especially pale pink. It produces a mild response and may even help with concentration in some children.
Red is a color to use carefully around hyperactive children with autism. It may bring out aggression, tension, or higher energy levels. Some children may even feel pain when interacting with the color red.
Colors are found everywhere and can be the reason children with autism are drawn to particular objects. Have you played a specific cartoon on repeat lately? Repetition may be the answer, but the color palette the designers used for the characters could be the main draw.
The same could be said of video games. Video games use vibrant colors and high-definition graphics that bring those colors to life. However, older video games will have a colorful design with basic shapes and moves that will draw the attention of a child with autism.
Color Therapy can also be done at home. From the colors in a child’s room to the toys they play with, most things a child interacts with can be used as a form of color therapy. At home, try painting the walls or an accent wall your child’s favorite calming color. Toys can be primary colors but keep other objects pale or dull colors to promote a calm environment.
Colors are a significant part of life. Let’s celebrate National Color Therapy month by taking advantage of the great moods colors bring to us and use them to improve our everyday lives.
Check out this video of our Lexington members using colors for sensory therapy. And don’t forget to follow us!
Disclaimer: This post attempts to publicize ideas and comments that we find would be useful for our community to know. Our post is by no means intended to prompt you to handle your challenges in any specific way. We desire to bring helpful information to all our audiences and shine a light on popular topics.