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The Psychology of Color and Autistic Children; Part V: Changing the Color Environment

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Is your autistic child restless at bedtime in their room? Does he/she get easily distracted when doing homework? Are they more hyper-active, or lethargic in certain places? Do they avoid a particular room in the house like a colorfully decorated powder room? Alternating the color-schemes in places where your child spends his/her time may help sooth some of their discomfort and calm some of these behaviors.Now that we have established (in Part I) that color affects mood, and behavior, and have explored specific colors (in Parts II, III, and IV), let’s turn our attention to making your autistic child’s surroundings more comfortable. Multi-colored rooms, striped or busy wall papers, and patterned floors can feel chaotic to an autistic child. Their eyes will be drawn from place to place with all the colors and patterns fighting for their attention. Since not everyone with or without autism responds to color stimuli in the same way (although there are similarities), it is important to closely observe your child.


Bedrooms are a place that you want your child to be able to feel relaxed, and calm; a place conducive to rest and a good night’s sleep. Parents of autistic children know how difficult it can be getting their children to sleep. Carefully considering the color of your child’s room, and keeping away from bright primary colors may help. According to the New York Metro Parents website, interior designer Carolyn Feder encourages parents to paint their autistic child’s room in a tranquil hue, such as pale blue, soft green or muted purple.

Play areas

Play areas are places that you may want to stimulation your child’s imagination, or use colors that are more vivid (if that is your color preference). Since it is not as important to create a calm atmosphere use of brighter colors may work. However, if your child is very sensitive to color stimuli toned down colors are best. Lynne Harrison, a child psychologist, recommends soft green tones as one of the best colors for autistic children.

Studying and Homework Spaces

Although you may want to use colors that will be stimulating like yellows, take care because yellow is the strongest emotionally stimulating color. Purples stimulate your higher thought processes, sense of intuition, and imagination and can be a good choice. Soft tones can be conducive to an effective study-zone. Pink may be your overall best color for a child’s study area. Studies have shown that pink is useful for children with learning disabilities. According to the University of Minnesota newsletter, “Implications,” the soft shades of pink have neutral undertones that are subdued and non-distracting.

Kitchen and Dining Areas

Getting your ASD child to eat can be a challenge. Many of these children have sensitive pallets and are extremely selective with their food choices. Consider using orange and reds in your kitchens and dining areas. Orange has an energizing effect and stimulates the appetite.

Colors affects the way we feel and behave. Careful consideration when it comes to color choices for your home and your child’s environment can go a long way to affect behaviors. It is important to remember that each child is an individual and finding the right balance of colors may take some trial and error. Observe your child and note any behavior or emotional changes when you change the color of a living space where they spend a lot of time.


Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.

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