Autism Colour Article
Colour is believed to be the most important visual experience for human beings. Colour influences peoples attitude, grabs attention, evokes feelings and can be very effective in learning and educational settings.
For instance ‘Serendipity’ by Dulux Signature appears eye catching on the dining room wall. ‘0469 Déjà Vu’ by Colortrend, creates a soothing feeling used in studies.
‘0844 Yolk’ by Colortrend works well on the memo wall at home or in the office.
How we make our colour choices depends of our cultural heritage, preferences, taste, mood, time of life, family members etc. There are an endless number of subjective factors.
The findings (please see references of websites below) strongly suggest that our perception of color is controlled much more by our brains than by our eyes.
These experiments (references below) show that color is defined by our individual experience in the world, and since we all share the same world, we arrive at the same definition of colors.
The evidence suggests that colour perception is almost like a reflex; an inherited understanding, not one that is learned. Due to structural abnormalities in the brain autistic people
often have difficulty processing and integrating sensory information including visual information. People with autism often detect colours with higher intensity.
They are more sensitive to their surrounding so the world appears extraordinarily sharp to them. For example individuals with autism have been noted to only eat white
foods or to never play with toys of a certain color.
In order to avoid strong visual stimuli it is important to opt for subdued, muted, broken colours. It is not advisable to go for pure, vivid and acidic colours.
Earthy colours are probably the most suitable. They not only help to create a restful atmosphere but they work far better with the Irish light. Therefore it is a
good idea to look at a palette derived from nature which our eyes are conditioned to see. Go for more broken colours dirty-whites, mauves, olive greens, blue-greys, burnt oranges.
If there is luminous colour that is admired greatly by a person and you must use it in order to facilitate personal likes, do so, but use it on a chair, a piece of furniture
or a picture frame. Alternatively you can go for a more saturated version of a colour.
Make sure that all your colours will blend from one to another. Sidestep coordination as this can appear soulless. Go for “lived-in elegance”. Use the same type of thought
process as to create a painting, to put together an outfit or to prepare a 5 course meal. Each step has to be thought out in order to come together as a whole.
Picture your house as a painting, an outfit or a dinner; it has to work as one. This means that you should try to use a similar rhythm of colour to keep the same look.
First of all think if the colour suits the room and then ask if it links in with the rest?
The trick is not to forget to view the house as a whole this will give a more balanced scheme. Have one theme going through the house, one palette of colors,
but vary the darkness and lightness of the colour. Give each room its own character. Make sure not to overuse a particular colour as this can result in a bland scheme.
Ask yourself, what is the function of the room, what is it used for and more importantly who is using the room?
Deeper hues give a sense of calm, keep us grounded. Sometimes pale colours can look drab, washed out and lifeless. It is hard to go wrong with earthy hues because
of their gentle appearance.
You may use stronger and bolder hues to define space, e.g. dining room areas, kitchen, and hallways. Colour can aid in navigation from one area to the other.
Colour can help to lead the way or perhaps paint a ceiling if somebody is spending more time in bed.
It is not that the colours themselves have a meaning; it is that we have culturally assigned meanings to them. Colour perception varies among different cultures
and even within one culture- for instance Valentine Day’s and ‘Stop!’ signs. Many cultural differences exist on perceived color personality, meaning, and preference.
Lighting is another element to consider as it influences colour. Autistic people can have increased light sensitivity and in some cases severe sensitivity to
fluorescent lighting and flashing light. Incandescent light is the preferred option.
Green is a nourishing colour that gives a sense of stability and endurance. Green is the great balancer of the heart and the emotions. Green’s appearance is relaxing;
it soothes us physically and therefore cools the blood. Memorise the serene feeling after a walk into park? This brings harmony to the body, animates the nerves and creates
symmetry between the head and heart.
This can be especially true for people with autism who seem to be more affected by their environments than neurotypical people.
Green is also the color of growth, the color of spring, of renewal and rebirth. Green is a rejuvenating color and is often described as a natural peacemaker due to its many
associations with relaxing aspects of nature that our eyes are accustomed to see. Green is a colour of Islam, which literally means “Peace” and is often used on front doors.
Green interiors form a tranquil atmosphere where you are connecting with nature by bringing the outside in. It is hard to go wrong with green; be it a bathroom, office,
dental surgery, or school. Green has got a wide field of areas within which it can be integrated.
Yellow is a glory hunter, it is bubbly, happy, energising and inspirational. Yellow inspires original thought and inquisitiveness. The color yellow loves a challenge, particularly a mental challenge.
We know that colours motivate people to learn and they profit from educational experiences. This applies especially to the autistic as they are generally considered visual learners and benefit significantly from visual reinforcement, visual cues. With the use of colour in the intervention, it can help them to follow and understand the learning program better.
Yellow is a colour for focus, use it in offices, studies and play areas. It is best to stay clear from intense yellows as they can be too stimulating. Or use it in small portions shelving, picture frames.
Red is a high impact colour that has dual meanings within our culture, where it is associated with both love and war. It can evoke feelings of anger, romance (think of Valentine’s Day)
while also alerts to caution (think of ‘Stop!’ signs).
Red is energetic, uplifting and plays an important role in making information more alluring. Red is considered to be a colour of wisdom in colour psychology. Red is a colour to be used sparingly
in order to achieve a harmonious feeling. Red, being an attention seeker, is used in colour semantics (references below) to answer the question ‘where’? Use red as a statement colour on an entrance wall,
a dining room wall, a memo wall. Red is a wonderful accent colour that can be incorporated on chairs, a desk or on a single door.
Orange is an uplifting colour; it is supposed to stimulate mental activity and helps to control emotions. The colour orange relates to social communication, stimulating two way conversations.
A warm and inviting color, it is both physically and mentally stimulating, so it gets people thinking and talking.
Use this in social areas such as a dining room, a sitting room, a kitchen, a canteen. Orange evokes positive feelings.
Looking for inspiration in selecting the perfect orange; think of all the orange hue that you see in the nature: mandarin, grapefruit, pumpkin, coral, peach, tangerine, butternut squash,
sunrise, poppy leaves, buff, apricot nectar, cadmium yellow, dark cheddar- the list is endless.
Purple is a colour of the visionary, creative mind. It offers a sense of spiritual fulfillment – it expands our awareness, connecting us to a higher consciousness.
Being ourselves and not letting ill thoughts to occupy our mind, a feeling of being in our natural flow. This is the so called ‘union of body and soul’ creating a balance between our physical and our spiritual energies.
Purple is a colour of a strong mind.
In the search for inspiration think of: heathers in the mountains, mauves, aubergine, violets, lavender, blueberries, red onions, amethyst, dahlia, phlox.
Dark purples can appear extravagant, bright purples boost imagination; pale purples calm the mind and nerves. Change the hue and the meaning of a colour is automatically changed as well as the mood of the scheme.
Purple is considered to be a healing colour. Use it in bedrooms to get comforting good nights sleep. Purple awakes nostalgic and romantic feelings and is also a commonly favoured colour among kids.
Purple works especially well in hallways with wooden floorings or pine staircase. Give a glamorous vibe to dining rooms by painting it purple. Purple suits therapy rooms, salons and play areas.
Pink is affectionate, thoughtful and loving; it is a colour of hope. Pink helps to create a relaxed, pleasant and soothing atmosphere. Dusky pinks ooze sophistication; pale powdery pinks appear fresh and airy.
Take caution not to over use pink in may have a negative meaning. Too much pink in a one scheme gives an appearance of being too sweet, naïve and guileless. Include other colours to your scheme as
this will add depth and poise to the finished look. Pink would suit bedrooms, hallways, waiting rooms, kitchens, back entrances.
Recapture thoughts of the following: candy floss, radish, dusty rose, powder pink, blush, flamingo pink.
The colour blue exhibits an inner security and confidence. It is soothing, promoting both physical and mental relaxation, stress-reducing and inspirational colour. It relies on intuition rather than gut feeling.
It is good in bedrooms, hobby rooms, reading areas, thinking corners. Blue is a quiet, reserved and sincere colour. It does not draw attention. Blue rooms ooze stability, a sense of freedom, calm and order.
Think of clear blue skies. Blue is meant to slow metabolism.
Dark blue is a dignified, good hue to be used on ceilings as it is associated with deep thought. It promotes deep concentration during times of introspection and meditation (wonderful before falling asleep)
helping you achieve deeper levels of consciousness.
In a search for the perfect blue recall memories of the following hues: Hawaiian Oceanic, stone blue, smoke blue, eggshell blue, morning mist, petrol, forget-me-nots, and summer sky.
Browns are considered as serious, down-to-earth colours signifying stability, structure and support. They give a sense of being grounded, safe and secure. Think of leaves, sienna, sepia, umber, camel,
cocoa, coffee, fawn, bark, mushroom, warm sand, pebble. In the meaning of colours, brown is the color of material security and the accumulation of material possessions. Browns help us to stay grounded with both
feet planted firmly on the ground.
Brown is a reliable, honest and sincere. Browns are easy to use in interiors but you must make sure to light them up with plenty of accent colours otherwise brown becomes dull and dreary. Brown, being neutral,
will work well with
any accent colour and suits most areas.
White is a perfect colour for focus. It helps to clear the mind from unnecessary clutter and isn’t stimulating to the senses. It creates a sense of order and efficiency, a great companion if you need to eliminate chaos.
White is the color for new beginnings, a new page, a fresh start, a color of protection and encouragement. It offers a sense of peace and calm, comfort and hope, helping to ease emotional upsets.
White provides an inner cleansing and purifying of your thoughts, emotions and, ultimately, your spirit. It can refresh and strengthen your entire energy system. This is why it is traditionally worn by western brides
and the reason why doctors wear white jackets. White awakens openness, growth and imagination. It is the untouched canvas waiting to be painted upon. White is ideal in a creative hub, art studio, gallery, office, study,
workroom. White is versatile and works well almost anywhere. In bedrooms, however, it may be too bright.
Pure white interiors are totally reflective as white amplifies everything in its way. Pure brilliant white is very stimulating on the eye and perhaps one should go for more of broken whites, dirty whites. They are
softer and do not appear as luminous. Think of angora, bone white or parchment hue.
Black is a serious colour which adds definition. It is associated with formality, power and elegance. It is often thought of as a colour of style and sophistication. Too much black in a scheme can appear depressing.
Black is a clever accent colour against which almost everything looks great. Pure black is hardly seen in a nature it is best to go for more off-blacks, for example think of blackberry, blackcurrant, and black beans.
Gold evokes the feeling of prestige (‘gold card’), wisdom (‘golden age’) and perfection (‘golden rule’), triumph (‘gold medal’). Compared to silver which is identified with feminine energy and the sensitivity of the moon,
gold is masculine as it is correlated with sun. Sunshine lifts our spirits accelerates our energy levels, hence gold is often linked with enlightenment, high ideals and knowledge.
Gold often symbolizes high quality, success, achievement and wealth. Therefore golden environments are optimistic, positive and pleasant. Gold adds warmth and richness; it illuminates and enhances other things around it.
Go for more brown gold or green gold as they are earthy. Bypass yellow gold this can be too blazing. For a perfect gold, have a look at wallpapers. Gold can be used on small dozes on the radiators to reflect the heat and
on the doors, skirting board, and architrave. Gold, being a spiritual colour, inspiring a deep understanding of self and the soul, it will suit bedrooms, sitting rooms, hallways.
Purples, pinks, orange, greens and blues have qualities that suit autistic people and tend to attract the eye. But this does not mean you cannot use other colours. You can and you should vary the saturation,
chroma and intensity of the hue. It is equally important to imagine what we would like our homes, businesses to be and visualise the desired look and ask ourselves can we live with it; are we comfortable?
It is similar thinking as when choosing an outfit to wear. We must feel comfortable in our surroundings and the environment should be aesthetically pleasing. Remember the neural memories and associations of a
colour will vary with each individual as our brain neural wiring is unique (every person’s brain is wired differently please see reference to the website below). Allow yourself sufficient time for your ideas to
evolve as the color selection is a thought process.
Indulge in the language of colour,
Pat McDonnell Paints Tralee Branch
- www.downsyndromevictoria.org.au Learners with Down Syndrome
- What is Colourful Semantics by OLSEL Project, Cath Morrissy Speech Pahtologist CEOM
- University of Rochester (2005, October 26). Color Perception Is Not In The Eye Of The Beholder: It’s In The Brain.ScienceDaily.
- The Influence of Colour on Memory Performance: A Review
Pat McDonnell Paints always recommend the application of a sample prior to a final decision on any colour.
There are a number of factors which can substantially influence how a colour looks on a chip card/computer screen & how it will look in a room setting. e.g the quality of a camera image,
quality of the computer screen, the lighting in the room etc.