Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Goodbye to fluorescent bulbs – Here’s looking at you kid.


Enticement by autistic artist Donna Williams With the new government proposal to phase out incandescent light bulbs, what about those on the autism spectrum with the visual perceptual processing challenge of Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome who struggle to concentrate, read and learn under fluorescent lighting? I always squinted in bright light and under fluorescent lights. There were some fluorescent lit rooms I couldn’t stay seated in, others I would struggle to listen in and some I just plain wouldn’t enter.

In the book Like Colour To The Blind I wrote about my first experiences with tinted lenses for Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome. Essentially we all process light frequencies differently and some of us struggle to process certain light frequencies more than other people do. The result can be that its hard to read if the brightness of the page seems to pulsate, making the words floaty or seem to move or swim about on the page. So, needless to say, I never became much of a reader even though I’m a prolific writer.

But the fluorescent lights did something else too. They made people’s faces seem ‘in bits’, like trying to read when in a moving car, looking at faces made me feel edgy, queasy and visual chaos seemed far more messy than in dim light.

Tinted lenses, omega 3s, Glutamine and low salicylate diet helped solve much of that and was a better alternative than asking everyone to replace their fluoros with incandescent wall lights, lamps or natural light. But I still turned them off where possible.

As a consultant I advised teachers to seat children with these problems under a strip of ceiling without the fluorescent lighting and progressive studies have backed up what I wrote of in Autism; An Inside Out Approach and The Jumbled Jigsaw about the impact of turning off fluorescent lights on behavior management, attention span and learning.

But now the is going to bring the fluorescent bulbs home as well.

I say keep the sunglasses on standby, the peaked cap at the read, bye those standing lamps and frosted, scalloped wall light fittings, those uplighter shades, those yellow deflectors that add the missing yellow back into the color spectrum which is missing from fluorescent lights.

Do I want to argue for incandescent lights for people on the autistic spectrum with these visual perceptual challenges? I think they’ll suffer far more from the impact of global warming. But I do think we need to respect the needs of those with visual perceptual disabilities and the impact that overwhelming and fragmenting their senses will have on slowing their information processing, contributing to loss of information processing, inattention and behavior management challenges.

You knew the job was dangerous when you took it Super Chicken.


ps: a reader sent this

In case you’re interested, I’ve found some flicker free natural spectrum light bulbs, low energy and the best I’ve found yet. Called biobulb and made by Ecozone www.ecozone.co.uk then click on biobulb link.


Well, I bought the ‘warm white’ fluoros and was AMAZED.

These didn’t effect me anything like the old fluors… that sort of piercing whiter and than white cackola that’s in schools and hospitals. I was even further amazed when, unlike how I get by with even minimal incandescent lighting, here I was, happy to leave these WARM WHITE fluoros on…. unheard of. Anyway, I still have Scotopic Sensitivity, still can’t see cohesively or sit without agitation under the old style fluoros without tinted lenses but I can under these new ones. Well, wonders never cease to amaze.

πŸ™‚ Donna