Colors and How They Affect the Mood and Behavior of Children with Autism

Color is everywhere and can be linked to our emotions and influence our behavior. It is the particular feature of something that can be described in terms of hue, lightness, and saturation. 

Children or kids start to identify hues by eighteen (18) months or during their preschool/kindergarten years and can be considered a significant building block in their cognitive development. This achievement creates an analytical link between certain words and visual clues.


Learning about colors is a major stepping stone for kids as it can provide information about health and safety. According to Sensational Color, red is universally used as the color that means “stop” and is associated with violence and anger. It excites emotion and elicits a reaction from people, this can affect many an individual's outcomes.

Kids are naturally drawn to bright hues because they are easier to see and more stimulating. However, different hues may have a completely different effect on Kids with autism. The autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopment condition that can cause visual defects. Kids with ASD see hues differently when compared to other kids. One finding was that “duller hues with white and gray undertones have a calming effect on kids in this spectrum.” While many people describe white as cold and sterile, autistic kids may think a room painted in white is comforting instead of uninviting and empty. 

Autism-Friendly Colours: Color for Neurodiversity

Color psychology is the study of colors in relation to human behavior and seeks to ascertain how color affects day-to-day decisions. Enhanced sensitivity in kids with ASD may result in color preference. Parents should take into consideration color preference when designing spaces for their autistic kids. Color preference can be identified at an early age through the introduction of crayons or multi-colored toys at an early age. 

Overstimulation to certain hues can suppress or restrain an impulse or behavior; therefore, effective colored items can increase task performance and reading ability. Color therapy is a method that utilizes the combination of light and color to treat disorders such as autism in kids, as a child's mood is liable to changes depending on these stimulants. Toys made in primary hues are recommended for kids with ASD; however, parents should be aware of the hues that bring forth a particular mood in kids with ASD. 


Specific hues, especially red, have led to many negative behaviors in kids with ASD. An obsession with the color green has also been documented in kids with ASD as it symbolizes tranquility and freshness, which makes kids with ASD feel safe. Not all kids with this disorder have an obsession with green, as some have shown positive reactions to bright hues, such as red and yellow, instead of pastel hues like blue and green.

The bottom line is all children, especially those with ASD, may respond differently when introduced to certain colors. A color that may make one child feel happy can make another aggravated and may depend on past experiences.

Daycare and Sensory Room ideas:

Kids with autism gravitate towards visually interesting toys.  They capture their attention! Visual sensory toys are a fun way to help kids process visual stimuli necessary for self-regulation. 

The Touch Sensitive Lights provide many sensory integration benefits.  The light has a calming and relaxing effect.  Children can manipulate the light to suit their sensory seeking needs.  The use of colors and lights improves communication skills and reinforces concepts like cause and effect.

1 comment

  • We were always confused as to why my autistic daughter disliked being in the car unless we were on a motorway. As soon as we hit the motorway she would be laughing and hand flapping with delight. After a while we realised it was the green of the fields and trees that surround most motorways here in Wales.


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