Tips for Visual Sensitivity
Visual hypersensitivity can significantly interfere with everyday life. Here are a few of the major culprits:
Fluorescent lights: people with auditory and visual sensitivity can see and hear fluorescent lights as they flicker on and off. This can range from mildly annoying to profoundly distracting.
Downcast lights: light that shoots straight down from the ceiling may be very difficult for people to tolerate.
Glare: From sunlight or artificial lighting, glare can make it difficult for people to see and concentrate.
Visual overcrowding: Too many things to look at in the environment can be overwhelming or even lead to a sensory “white out.” Too much movement in a playground may make it too uncomfortable for a child to play happily. Too many items on a bookshelf, in a toy bin, or in a dresser drawer may make it impossible to find a the desired item. Too many questions on a school worksheet can overload and discourage a student even if the student knows the material.
Here are some quick tips:
- When possible, replace fluorescent bulbs with full spectrum or incandescent bulbs
- If unable to replace fluorescent fixtures:
- Use only FRESH fluorescent tubes since they get noisier and more flickery as they age
- Cover fluorescent ceiling fixtures with light diffusing filters such as Sky Panels and Classroom Light Filters. See the Sensory Environment section of our Toys & Equipment page
- Turn off overheads and use eye-level lamps
- Most lights are simply too bright. Install dimmer switches you can buy at the hardware store.
- Wear sunglasses and/or a hat outdoors and tinted lenses indoors.
- Wear a baseball cap hat with a wide brim to cut the glare of downward lighting. If wearing a hat inside is forbidden at your child’s school and he needs this accommodation, you will need to formally add it to your child’s IEP or 504 plan.
- To reduce visual overload:
- Declutter your home, school, or office.
- Sort through toys and objects and store them in opaque containers with labels.
- Clear off work surfaces. For example, if you want your visually sensitive child to focus on his homework, provide a distraction-free workspace.
- Avoid complicated prints and patterns on carpets and walls.