One of the hallmark traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder is hypersensitivity, which is an abnormally intense sensitivity to a particular substance. This hypersensitivity can be found in relation to smells, textures, tastes, sounds, and lighting.
A major component of Autism Spectrum Disorder is abnormal differences in sensory integration. What would be a soft blanket to typically developing persons could feel like steel wool to an individual with ASD. As a result, persons with ASD have to learn to manipulate their interaction with the world to control these sensitivities and functionally work in common spaces.
Hypersensitivity to fluorescent lighting is a common problem with ASD in the home, school, and workplace. Fluorescent lights double the cycle of common light bulbs at 120Hz. Though this change is nearly imperceptible to most people, for persons with autism, this peripheral change becomes the focus of their direct observation, and so they perceive the light’s rapid changes in color, producing a flickering effect. Combine the terror this feeling invokes with the headache and nausea that fluorescent lighting usually causes in typically developing persons, and you get a very real idea of the toxic reality that this causes for persons with ASD.
In order to combat the nightmarish effects of fluorescent lighting, there are some tricks to alleviate individuals’ hypersensitive reactions without diminishing the quality of electronic resources:
· Angle computers so they don’t reflect overhead lights
· Turn off unnecessary lighting whenever possible
· Replace fluorescent bulbs with normal ones or LED bulbs that limit the flickering effect
Taking the aforementioned steps is a simple solution that can immediate make the individual more comfortable. Creating a safe and comfortable space, whether it be at home or in the office, can make a world of difference for a person with ASD at almost no cost to their peers. It is therefore crucial that the problems of hypersensitivity be taught to laypeople in order to fully integrate highly functioning individuals with ASD who wish to live an independent life.
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Sara Power, Fordham University