Colour & Autism



I started my own journey in understanding colour when looking at colour selections for my autistic daughter. I followed the guidelines and decorated her bedroom in a pale mint green - with the view that the calming and restful colour would be helpful in her struggle with anxiety and insomnia. Instead, her anxiety levels increased and her insomnia worsened. So started my research into breaking down the stereo types of colour and we worked together to try to understand her own relationship with colour. The end result was that we painted out her bedroom in a deep blood red. The result? Her self confidence improved, her anxiety lessened and her issues with sleep settled.


There isn't a massive amount of material written in terms of interiors for Autism and what there is, tends to be written by 'neuro-typical' persons who with the best of intentions, don't understand exactly what it is like to be on the spectrum. I think also, that many designers forget sometimes that their client is an individual and as individuals, we don't all have the same rule book. When we are designing, especially for persons on the Autism Spectrum, we need to take into consideration the very individual relationship that our client/s may have with colour.


When we talk about colour, many neuro-typical people don't necessarily understand their relationship with colour, let alone someone on the spectrum. This creates interesting dilemmas in and of itself.


Having realised from experience that colour doesn't necessarily 'work' as per given colour psychology expectations, let's break it down a bit further. A person may have had positive or negative experiences or associations with particular colours which then plays a part in their individual preferences. I'll give you an example: my high school uniform was bottle green. High school was not a particularly enjoyable experience for me as I struggled to negotiate the social aspect of my day and I battled constant migraine (which I now know is a result of the fluorescent lighting). It was only recently that I was able to work out why I avoided greens in my clothing selections, interior selections and so forth.


Once I realised how important our individual relationships with colour are, whether conscious or unconscious, I started to develop my own way to work with clients in order to understand how colour affects them individually. I wanted a visual system to use as a tool. Initially, I wrote a spreadsheet which very clearly (to me) showed the different colour breakups that I wanted to have printed onto cards to use with my clients. Unfortunately, my printer took one look at this and shook his head. It turns out that mathematical equations do not necessarily create CMYK or RBG colour parameters as used by industry. I had to change the way that I thought in order to create what I needed.


Wandering into my local Haymes Paint place and looking at their colour boards, inspiration struck. Why create a new system when there are perfectly wonderful colours already out there. I went through all of the different colours on their sample board until I had a collection that followed the visual cues I needed which I then took back to my printer to explain how it work. I'm so excited to say that Haymes Paint are on board with Colour Spectrum Cards by Brinnie T Design


The aim of these cards is not to specify an actual colour, but rather to help ascertain individual responses to colour groups, tints, tones and shades. Colour Spectrum Cards can be used when working with neuro diverse and neuro typical individuals, couples, families and groups. They are especially useful when working with clients who for whatever reason may be unable to verbalise their dislikes or preferences and means that they are able to participate in designing a space that they truly resonate with.






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