Does your child complain that the lights are too bright — or want to wear sunglasses all the time? Some kids are very sensitive to the input that comes in from their visual sense. This can make everything from studying to falling asleep a challenge. Here are some ways to help kids who have visual sensitivity.
1. Modify lighting.
For kids who find bright lights overwhelming, dimmer lighting can be soothing. Consider using colored light bulbs or compact fluorescent lamps — the light is softer. You can also invest in a flexible multi-head floor lamp. You or your child can adjust the positions of the bulbs for comfort.
2. Reduce glare.
If your child is oversensitive to sunlight, there are a few things you can do to limit exposure. Get sunglasses to keep in the car or in your child’s backpack. Talk with teachers about moving your child’s desk away from direct sunlight. You can also invest in portable shades that can be suction-cupped to car or classroom windows.
3. Make things brighter.
Some kids are undersensitive and need more visual input. Try using color systems to help organize belongings so it’s easier to find them. Provide bright lighting for your child’s room and homework space. You may also want to consider investing in a projection night-light or lamp to help your younger child sleep.
4. Tone things down.
Bright colors and “visual clutter” can overwhelm some kids. It can make it hard for them to concentrate or even become calm enough to sleep. Help keep your child’s room neat and keep distracting posters and knickknacks to a minimum.
5. Ease up on eye contact.
Some kids with find it hard or distracting to make eye contact. Telling kids to look at you might make it hard for them to concentrate on what you’re saying. Instead, let them know they don’t need to look directly at you, but they do need to listen and show that they’ve heard you. If seeing what you’re doing is important, ask your child to look in your direction.
6. Address safety concerns.
Some kids have trouble visualizing where their body is in relation to other objects. They may even tend to bump into things or trip over them. If your child has these difficulties, you might want to think about how you decorate your home.
Busy patterns on wallpaper or rugs can make it hard to see where things begin and end. Decorating in simple, contrasting colors can help. You can also use colored tape to highlight doorframes and other potential trouble spots.
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About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.