SMUD Expands Study Of Lighting Effects On Autism

SMUD is seeking local families for part two of a research pilot project to evaluate the effects of lighting on children with autism. Interested families are invited to attend an informational meeting on January 24, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 6301 S Street in Sacramento to learn more.

In the first study, SMUD examined the effects of tunable LED lighting in classrooms at Folsom Cordova Unified and at two homes of kids with autism. Project manager Dave Bisbee says tunable LED's allow you to adjust light color and intensity. "And what we found is that it does have a positive effect in both helping the students stay on task as well as sleep better," said Bisbee.

An even more profound effect was noted at the two homes. One of the kids is non-verbal and was having trouble getting to sleep each night. The tunable LED lighting helped reduce the time it took him to get to sleep from 30 minutes down to 5 minutes.

Now SMUD wants to expand the study to 30 local families. Eligible participants are families that live in the Sacramento region with children ages 5 to 10-years-old with autism spectrum disorder. If selected, SMUD will provide $1,500 in lighting products for participants in the project.

Highlights from the first study are below. The full report can be found here.

  • Students reported a slight increase in overall feelings of wellness and slightly lower energy levels.
  • Teachers had positive feedback and all reported the new lighting helped them teach more effectively.
  • The new lighting systems reduced electrical demand by 60-74% and energy consumption by 26-57%.
  • One of the families in the home study reported dramatic improvements in their child’s behavior. The other family reported modest behavioral changes, but a dramatic reduction in the amount of time it took their child to fall asleep.

After reviewing the results, SMUD technical experts recommended that school districts should install LED lighting systems that include lighting control scenes. Districts should consider installing tunable-white LED systems for new classrooms, especially those used at night or for teaching students with special needs. SMUD also suggested that more research needed to be done in the homes of students with autism and thus the reason for the second project.

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