Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today. It is known that sensory issues often accompany autism. In fact, sensory sensitivities is one of the symptoms to help diagnose autism. The sensory issues can be both hyper-sensitivities (over responsiveness) and hypo-sensitivities (under-responsiveness) to a wide range of stimuli.
These can involve: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, balance, and body awareness.
As with everyone, light plays a huge role in perceiving our surroundings, even more so with people with ASD. For example, people with ASD are reportedly more sensitive to flickering from fluorescent lights. Because of this, it is suggested that in designing a room for them, we need to use lights that are not flickering, such as incandescent light, or low flicker LED lights. In addition to that, people with hyper-sensitive to light also benefit from using dimmed light, or indirect lighting so that it does not overwhelm them. Dimmed light can be achieved by using smart lighting, or just using low wattage lighting, and indirect lighting.
Using natural light, while important, it is also to be noted that too much natural light can also be detrimental to them. So careful designing of natural light is also important. Glare needs to be minimized, and the intensity of the light should be controlled so the individual is not being overloaded with the light stimuli. But not everyone with ASD is experiencing the same sensory sensitivities, so the lighting solution needs to be tailored to each individual rather than making a sweeping generalization of everyone with ASD.