Friday, October 5, 2012

Color Me Happy AKA Light and Color Sensitivity in Asperger’s Syndrome « Neuro-Atypical || AutismAid

Me Happy AKA Light and Color Sensitivity in Asperger’s Syndrome

Colors, the vast spectrum of light intensity and density, like everything else in the known universe,  have a frequency.  Most people see colors and think “Oh, that looks pretty”, while Aspies may see colors and think “Oh, that feels nice.”… Or not.

In the Neuro-Typical brain, the many parts of the nervous system work really nicely together and the data that they provide are, for the most part, analyzed simultaneously, a la “Say, look at that lovely field of flowers. Many, many colors.  Move along.”  As I pointed out in a previous post on sound sensitivity, this is not always the case for the A.S. brain.  Just like sound, we can also have touch, taste, smell, and light (including color) sensitivity.  What this means is that when we have ‘too much’ input, it can overload us and we go into a sort of a melt-down, not unlike a small child, but (often) with less screaming.  This is a good time to point out again that (A) I can only speak for myself, and (B) that Asperger’s Syndrome isn’t a thing, but rather a classification for a wide spectrum of symptoms.  Some Aspies have them, other don’t.

To put it mildly, at the point when we go into ‘overload’ it’s almost as if the brain thanks us for being so diligent in collecting so much lovely data and then makes a request that we stop the input.  Immediately.  As in “I don’t care if you have to jump through a closed window, you need to find a quiet spot this very minute while I process all this information.”  It doesn’t happen often, but certain situations can trigger the reaction faster than others so all of these sensitivities must be identified and addressed if we are to interact socially (or at work) with some semblance of ‘normality.’

That said, let me be exceedingly clear on what I mean as I would hate for there to be any misconception when it comes to ‘addressing’ sensitivity.  The laughable suggestion of ‘getting over’ the sensitivity is never the appropriate approach.  For one, Aspies have a love for the balance and structure provided by martial arts.  If making ridiculous comments is something that you’re likely to do, I might suggest a cursory background check on any known Aspies with whom you associate.  Sensory sensitivity is not something you can ‘get over’ any more than cutting off the end of your own tongue is something that you’re likely to simply ignore.  If it’s so easily overcome that you can simply put it aside, then it is not a clinical sensitivity, but rather a minor annoyance.  Good?  Good.

Light and color sensitivity come in an array of forms.  Bright lights are the most common trigger, but also strobe lights can be an obstacle as each strobe causes the brain to issue another individual command to either investigate, or later on, attempt an escape.  While a strong strobe can be annoying to just about anyone, it can be downright physically painful to someone with A.S.  You may actually see them wince at every strobe.  It’s unpleasant enough to watch – I really do not wish to ever experience it.

Those with color sensitivity can become agitated or even angry at a certain shade in the spectrum.  On the flip side, there are certain colors and hues that can calm an Aspie down or pep them up quicker than any drug.  That’s a pretty serious benefit to anyone. Ever been to a psychologist?  Notice the blackout drapes? They’re there to provide an opportunity for the Dr. to alter the very color of the room, if need be.  Many will have small lamps with different shades of bulbs available. Totally not kidding.

I do not have either color or light sensitivity.  I hate fluorescent lights and that nasty plum-brown nail polish (lots of redheads wear it for some reason), but lots of people hate fluorescent lights, and I have confirmed with numerous NT friends (male and female) that the nasty plum-brown nail polish is just gross.  So really, when it comes to light I’m pretty much mainstream…  Except…  I’m really fond of bright colors.  Like, really fond of them.  Flowers, vegetables (I took the photo, above, at Target last Sunday, after taking the liberty of sorting the peppers out appropriately – those that pay close attention will notice something interesting about the numbers of the different peppers) , LEGO, cars, I just love vibrant primary colors, and also white – I revel in the absence of color!

I’m anomalous trichromastic.  Say that three times fast… Or ever.  It just means that I have a pretty narrow light spectrum available to me when I’m not wearing my wave-front glasses.  I was born about three months prematurely and the thing to do with dangerously early premies in 1970 was to put them into an incubator full of oxygen and hit them with ultra-violet lights.  This is a great approach if you’re trying to cause skin to grow faster, or you’re trying to blind the subject.  The glasses I wear have almost no astigmatism prescription to them, but rather they redirect the different colors in the spectrum further into the cones in my eyes, allowing me to see up to about 85% of what you see, and some things that you can’t.  Yes, I can see though walls… Of glass. And also, I can sort of see through clothing if it’s really, really sheer.  I do not wear my glasses when watching a movie, television, or if I’m at the computer.  Digital images have become so crisp and bright that I simply do not need them.  If anything they provide too much definition.  On the bright side (no pun intended) my color-blindness is likely the reason why I don’t have color or light sensitivity…

So hey, one less thing…  I may not be able to attend a party for very long, and I’d rather chew off my leg than have a live or telephone conversation, but at least I don’t have to worry about light sensitivity!  WHEW!  Close one…

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