Classroom lighting and autism

Investigating the effect of different classroom light settings on the behavior and emotions of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Master thesis Human-Technology Interaction
Client: Talentencampus Venlo
Graduation project Master Human-Technology Interaction

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Previous research showed positive effects of different light settings on human functioning and school performance of children. Only few studies have been performed to investigate the effects of school light on children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), while more than 11,000 children in the Netherlands are diagnosed with ASD. Autistic children are often extra sensitive to stimuli in their direct environment and it is generally assumed that the functioning and school performance of autistic children can be improved by a well-designed classroom environment.

In this project, I explored the effect of four different classroom light settings (Setting A: 4100 K, 300 lx; Setting B: 7300 K, 500 lx; Setting C: 5100 K, 900 lx; Setting D: 3500 K, 300 lx) in a special education school on the behavior and emotions of children with and without ASD in two studies. An observation study investigated the influence of exposure to the four classroom light settings on the behavior of the children during two weeks. The second study investigated whether the children associated specific emotions and tasks with a certain light, using an individual task especially designed for this purpose. 

Although the results suggests that children do not have an explicit preference for a specific light setting, the small unstructured interviews and the apparent results of associated headache and pleasantness indicate that the children have a clear opinion about the light. Considering the only few negative remarks that were given about the light and the fact that the effects of the light settings on headache and tiredness were based on associations and not current experiences, we expect the light settings will not obstruct the functioning of the children. Therefore we advise the teachers to start experimenting with the light settings in their own classroom.

Skills:

  • Qualitative and quantitative research
  • Research with a special user group
  • Developing research tools
  • Analysing statistics