Diffused Daylighting for Neurodiverse Spaces

The visual environment plays a vital role in the mental and emotional wellbeing of its observers; and an important part of being an architect is understanding how different people respond to their surroundings and using that understanding to create visually calming environments where diverse minds are free to focus on other tasks. Few things are as influential to how a person perceives and processes their visual surroundings as light.

While light is generally beneficial, some visual distractions are just that – distracting. What is simply annoying to some – such as a flickering light or unpleasant glare – can be utterly debilitating to others. Not everyone experiences the same environment in the same way, and for those with neurodivergent conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Dyslexia, these sensory cues can be overwhelming and even painful [4].

Researchers believe that one in eight (or 15%-20% of the population) are considered neurodiverse, though many are undiagnosed [5]. These individuals exhibit atypical brain processes and often experience a heightened sensitivity to their surroundings, including a sensitivity to light. Studies show that more than half of autistic adolescents have visual processing deficits and have even linked autism with abnormal pupillary light reflex [1]. Lights that are too bright, harshly colored, flicker, or hum are likely to contribute to an already visually-disorienting environment like a busy classroom or office and can cause an individual to become over-stimulated. Fluorescent lights, especially, are known to have particularly negative effects and have been shown to increase repetitive behaviors – with approximately half of autistic individuals experiencing what is classified as severe sensitivity to fluorescent lighting [1].

This hypersensitivity can inhibit an otherwise intelligent, energetic and creative individual from learning and performing at their full potential by overwhelming their eyes and brain with visual stressors [2]. This can lead many neurodiverse individuals to question their abilities, destroying their self-confidence. And for the many neurodiverse children who have a difficult time verbalizing their discomfort, this inability to concentrate due to sensory overload is often misconstrued as poor behavior. Studies show that children with sensory processing difficulties are more likely to “act out” when exposed to fluorescent lighting. Therefore, it’s not surprising that a classroom’s lighting conditions are directly tied to both a child’s academic performance as well as their behavior [3].

By limiting visual stressors and replacing off-putting artificial lights with diffused natural daylight, architects can help create safe, welcoming spaces where neurodiverse individuals can thrive. One way to do this is through translucent skylights and wall systems. Translucent systems diffuse incoming daylight to prevent glare and provide occupants with soft, even light that is easy on the eyes and calming to the mind. Translucent daylighting also eliminates exterior distractions by controlling views to the outside without sacrificing sunlight.

Access to natural daylight is a leading factor in a person’s ability to function effectively in an environment; and for neurodiverse individuals especially, being able to access that daylight without unnecessary distractions is essential to their wellbeing and productivity. To learn more about the benefits of diffused daylighting and Major Industries translucent panel systems, contact our Sales Team at 888-759-2678 or fnyrf@znwbefxlyvtugf.pbz.

 

SOURCES:

1) https://www.theraspecs.com/blog/light-sensitivity-autism/

2) https://epidemicanswers.org/light-sensitivity-and-autism-adhd-spd-developmental-delays/

3) https://living.thebump.com/flourescent-lighting-childrens-behavior-16316.html

4) https://www.workdesign.com/2019/12/designing-for-neurodiversity-and-inclusion/

5) https://workinmind.org/2019/06/26/how-to-help-people-flourish-with-neurodivergent-design/