Learn to support visual avoiders.

How to Support Visual Avoiders

Visual avoiders are highly sensitive to light, color, or patterns and tend to become overwhelmed or distracted by everyday visual input. Avoiders often have extreme or upsetting reactions to even very mild stimulation. As a result, they can appear withdrawn or defensive and have trouble fitting in with their peers. They also frequently experience symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and engage in repetitive self-soothing behaviors.

See below for ways to identify and support visual avoiders.

Visual Avoiders May:

  • Seek out dark or secluded environments.
  • Avoid messy rooms and busy, crowded spaces.
  • Frequently cover their eyes or hide their heads under pillows or clothing.
  • React strongly or as if in pain to bright, strobing, or fluorescent light.
  • Perceive dim, normal, or natural as much brighter than it actually is.
  • Be bothered or distracted by objects with bright, reflective, or shiny surfaces.
  • Be bothered or distracted by objects with spinning, flashing, or moving lights.
  • Prefer clothing and toys with muted and simple shapes, colors, and patterns.

How to Support You Visual Avoider:

  • Avoid toys and games with flashing or blinking lights.
  • Keep curtains or blinds closed whenever possible.
  • Wear sunglasses, tinted glasses, or hats when needed.
  • Give advance warning of bright or unexpected light whenever possible.
  • Be conscious of colors and patterns in toys, décor, and clothing.
  • Replace bright overhead lights with dimmable floor, table, or desk lamps.
  • Be mindful of clutter, reflective surfaces, and lights from electronics or appliances.
  • Work on calming strategies and develop a plan for how to exit overwhelming situations.

Keep in mind that no two children are exactly alike, and most people exhibit both seeking and avoiding behaviors from time to time. If you think your child might be suffering from sensory processing issues, you should seek a professional assessment. The STAR Institute’s Treatment Directory is a great resource that can help you find therapists, doctors, and community resources in your area.

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