Neurodivergent Lighting for the Home
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Neurodivergent lighting preferences can be hard to navigate. Yes, many people are aware of the stereotype that autistic people don’t like bright lights but ‘bright’ isn’t really the right word. They can be loud and painful or even anxiety-inducing. This is why we need “secondary lighting” as we refer to it in our house.
Typically, I rotate through overhead lighting during the day based on how much sunlight there is and what level of productivity I’m trying to be. It’s worth noting that things like being on my period, having a joint flare-up, or whether I’ve taken my ADHD meds can affect how much the lights bother me. Usually, once the sun has gone down, I find the overhead light irritable and it makes my skull hurt. I don’t know how else to describe it. All I know is that as soon as I turn it off, my whole head feels better.
When it comes to building a neurodivergent setup, I used to happily enough leave Christmas lights up in a classic dorm-room decor border. However, now that I’m in my mid-30’s, I want my home to feel a bit more pulled together. While parts of me have embraced my own personal autism aesthetic, parts of me also want my home to be pretty and appealing to those who don’t have a mild dino obsession.
To help you with your own sensory-friendly lighting setups, I’ve put together this list of neurodivergent-lighting ideas. The first part of the list is things I currently own and use in my own home. The second part is products you can find on Amazon that either I’ve owned before, been pining over based on rave reviews, or pined over at my friends’ homes.
Neurodivergent Lighting Tactics
Over the years I’ve been slowly curating my neurodivergent lighting setup. I know the pictures look all cozy and warm but it is definitely not a simple process. There’s the ADHD dopamine-seeking while shopping online for hours trying to decide on which of the identical lighting options seems best. There’s the fact that no matter how much I measure and overthink it, whatever I decide on won’t fit or look like I thought it would when I ordered it. I then become a tangled monster of fairy lights drifting around the house, randomly draping them in places near an outlet to see how they look.
Then there’s the matter of actually hanging them. That’s really always one of the trickiest parts. Will this tape actually stick to my wall for an extended amount of time? Will it fall off unexpectedly in the middle of the night leaving me to wonder what that sound in the dark was?
NeuroSpicily Knocking Things Over
No matter how many times I have hung fairy lights, it is still always a slow process. It usually involves climbing on and off something multiple times. Sticking and re-sticking tape or reusable glue pads while trying to get enough of the lights hanging so that the remaining weight of the un-hung lights don’t instantly pull the freshly hung lights down (repeatedly.)
Then consider the spicy-brain factors. It’s a roller coaster between hyper-focusing on something I want to be finished meets ADHD rage at things not working like I thought they would. Inevitably almost knocking things over while doing the same task multiple times. This, of course, makes me just want to give up for the time being while knowing if I do, it could be months before I get myself to finish it.
All of that being babbled, here is a list of the ways I’ve included neurodivergent lighting around my home.
Neurodivergent Lighting Around My Home
- Double Projectors
Admittedly, this setup was not on purpose. A few months ago I saw someone post a story with this galaxy projector and my impulsive ass could not say no. I of course entirely forgot about this purchase. My (undiagnosed ADHD) mom sent a box full of Christmas and Hanukkah presents late enough that it arrived just in time for my birthday, at the end of January.
Included in it was a weird little spaceman we couldn’t understand why she’d send, only to realize what it was. It was another Galaxy projector. But not just a regular one, one that reminded me of the lighting setup at my parent’s backyard and event space in the Emerald Forest. I was so excited to have something with this little taste of home only to get an Amazon delivery the next week with my forgotten-about purchase. So now we have two Galaxy projectors. In this room at least.
Galaxy Projector Features:
Spaceman Projector: comes with remote, multiple options for nebula speed, color, star options, etc. It has a timer and is very flexible as far as Galaxy projectors go in that the head can be swiveled around. This gives you more control over the projection placement than you get with most other Galaxy projectors. Does not have a Bluetooth connection.
Northern Lights Galaxy Projector: comes with remote, multiple options for galaxy color, speed, star options, etc. Also has a timer and automatic shutoff if you forget to set that timer (Spaceman does not turn off on his own.) and is really just a vibe vibe. Can connect to Bluetooth and features white noise options.
I couldn’t recommend one over the other, I love them both equally.
- Dinosaur String Lights
There is no endearing, forgetful ADHD story here of why I have this. I just like cute dinos and think these are adorable. They also make for a slightly softer lighting effect than non-dino-covered fairy light bulbs would typically give off. They are battery powered so can go anywhere your dino-loving heart desires.
- Neon Dinosaur Light
Secondary dino light for secondary lighting options. Again, no story here beyond the fact I just like dinos. So far, I have resisted the autistic urge to collect all of the neon dino options but I’m not sure how much longer I’ll last. Will report back with any future dino buys. There are also adorable planet neon lights if you’re more of a Space Autistic. This green dinomine (dino of mine) has the option of using an electric plug or relying on 3 AA batteries.
Fairy Light Ideas
- Vine Fairy Lights
Now, this baby I pined over for months; its dreamy images I saw while online shopping lingered in my head. I loved it, I needed it, I just…wasn’t sure where to put it. Obviously, I got it anyway. By the time it arrived, I had a general idea of where I wanted to put it. Only to be reminded of our Stupid Fucking Wall. This crappy wall is so crappy that when we moved in, our landlord said we could knock it down if we wanted. Everything we hang on it is crooked and nothing sticks to it. So when I thought I’d try to attach this beautiful vining fairy light to that wall, I promptly remembered that no tape would tape there. “Luckily,” our Stupid Fucking Wall also has an Ugly Fucking Cable hanging in the corner. On a whim, I wove the vine light around the Ugly Fucking Cable and it worked out perfectly. It’s made of wire so I could easily bend it to cover the cable and customize where the branches go.
- Starburst Light Using Tree Branch Lights
This one is tedious, I won’t lie. Climbing a chair to stick and re-stick glue pads to make sure everything is straight is not for the faint-of-arms. I’ll also admit I’m currently in an ongoing battle with getting the corner of this one to stay in place. It’s proving a little heavy for glue pads and hidden duct tape in a humid environment. The light itself is one that’s made of branched wires, intended for trees and wrapping around branches; I just had other ideas for it.
MoreWays to Use Fairy Lights
- Fake Greenery
So I have a lot of plants. My fiance would probably say too many plants but I refuse to admit that’s a thing. That point being made, I definitely don’t need decor to add some greenery in here and I typically don’t like the look of fake plants – but I found these while looking for options to replace the Christmas lights to help my post-holiday decorations depression. I like these fake greenery fairy lights because they offer some soft lighting as the fake greenery mutes the bulb brightness a bit. These are battery-operated which I definitely don’t love. I keep meaning to order some USB extension cables but alas, my brain is spicy.
- Fairy Light Runners
Downside of Israeli apartments: small. Neurodivergent upside: cozy corners.
For the last entry to my personal neurodivergent lighting list, we’ve circled back to the tedious. Using glue pads and a curtain of fairy lights, I murdered my arms putting these into place. Thankfully, this set has stuck perfectly and has not required the upkeep the living room starburst is insistent on requiring. This set of lights comes with a remote and has multiple brightness levels which is a huge plus for lights that shine in your face while you’re trying to wind down.
- IKEA Pendant Light
I know the other lights in this post have largely been after-dark options but I think it’s worth mentioning this find. When we moved in, whoever was here before us took the lighting fixtures with them. It took us months to figure out what kind of light we wanted in there and on a trip to the IKEA sale for storage solutions, we ended up bringing this fixture home and I am so glad we did. It gives off enough light that the room never feels lacking or unnecessarily dark. Most importantly, it doesn’t give off any kind of blinding star-glare that makes me want to die. I consider this the most important feature of a lighting fixture.
- Yet Another Galaxy Projector
I know this seems excessive but please don’t judge. This is actually a Galaxy projector my mom sent as a present a few years ago. It simply got booted from the first string projectors in the living room to the bedroom. It’s got fewer features than the others but it still vibes nicely. By now you’re probably asking, “Why does your mom send you so many galaxy projectors?” The answer is because she has undiagnosed ADHD and she forgets! I guarantee she has no recollection of sending either of the projectors she sent and would absolutely send another if the impulse struck or she saw a new one I saved on an ADHD never-shopping list. This Galaxy projector has a remote, connects to Bluetooth, plays nature noises, and has multiple color and movement options.
It’s About Options
The key to building a good neurodivergent lighting setup is to provide options. I don’t turn on all of these every day, I turn them on as needed depending on my mood or what I’m doing. Sometimes I’m having people but can’t stand the overhead light so turn on as many of the secondary lighting options as I can. Other times I want to sit pretty much in the dark and with a Galaxy projector (or two.)
Part Two: Neurodivergent Lighting I’m Obsessed With
- This dreamy planetarium
Yes, I know I already have three galaxy projectors but I don’t have a planetarium. This one is rechargeable which means you can easily carry it to use wherever you want. It comes with multiple slides with different constellations and galaxies and they’re adding more that you can order separately to add to your collection.
- This corner floor lamp I’m dying to have
I have been wanting one of these for so long, we just don’t really have a good spot for one. Please get one so I can live through you.
- Or, for a more functional floor lamp
This floor lamp includes built-in shelves with a power outlet and two charging ports! It also comes with a remote that can be used to change it between the multiple lighting options and is fully dimmable.
- Get a vacation vibe going with this adorable palm tree lamp
The lighting on this palm tree lamp is nice and subtle and it just looks like a cute plant when it’s not on, what’s not to pine for?
Get Creative With It!
- If you’re a stuffy-loving neurodivergent, this fairy light hammock is perfect for you!
This fairy light hammock is the perfect subtle lighting setup for your favorite stuffed animals. We know you have them, it’s okay. Give them a cozy new home with this adorable hammock!
- This cherry blossom strand of fairy lights is stunning.
I want to cover my ceiling and drape these beautiful cherry blossom fairy lights everywhere.
- If you’re more of a cottage-core/witchy neurodivergent, this pressed flower lamp is for you!
Do I really even need to explain this one? Look how cute it is! And the pressed flowers help spread out the light density so there aren’t any bright spots showing through the lamp shade like so many lamps tend to do. (Yes, fine, you got an explanation.)
- Create a peaceful environment with this gorgeous olive vine string light.
If the cherry blossom string light is a bit too much for you, this olive leaf string light is sure to bring you some serenity.
- Get light out of your face entirely and put these LED strips under your bed.
These strips can be put under your bed, couch, table, etc. to provide soft lighting without bothering your eyes. This set of lights can be motion activated, turn on/off, and are dimmable aka they’re perfect.