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After packing three bright orange shirts in the luggage of my ten year old son so that his grandparents could locate him easily during a trip, I accidentally discovered what psychologists and color advocates have known for years. The color orange is a terrific color for children with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Asperger’s Syndrome, named after the Austrian physician Hans Asperger who first identified the characteristics in the 1940’s, is a disorder falling in the autistic spectrum characterized among other things by a lack of social skills and eye contact, obsessive interests, clumsiness, ticks or compulsive behaviors, and an unusually expansive vocabulary. Being a disorder and not a disease, there is no “cure” for Aspergers, but that isn’t to say that there are not treatments or that children with Aspergers can’t learn to modify their behavior to better fit with their peers. And color is a subtle therapy that can be consciously used to help them learn moderate their emotional state and ultimately their behavior.
Based on his skin tone and steel gray eyes, I tended to dress my son in blues and greens, opting for orange on this particular trip because it was his first long adventure sans parental supervision. Orange shirts, though popular in hunting circles, are rarely fashionable in tourist locations and I wanted to give his grandparents as much assistance as possible in keeping tabs on a youngster who tends to wander.
Not only did the boy wear the orange shirts exclusively during the trip, he had other choices, but surprisingly they became his favorite shirts upon his return. It wasn’t until that point that I started researching how they must be making him feel.
The Eastern teachers have long associated colors with different body organs and systems. For my purpose, it was sufficient to realize that the orange robes donned by many eastern monks were not a random choice. Apparently, orange invokes happiness, joy, creativity, and a positive attitude. It is a great color to mitigate depression, and depression is terribly common in awkward children who desperately want to fit in, but don’t know how. Orange stimulates feelings of well being and social connectiveness. In short, the color orange subtly reinforces many of the areas where Aspergers children face challenges.
By dressing my son in orange during an adventure fraught with new experiences and no small sense of apprehension, I was arming him with a color that purportedly strengthened his emotional state, deepened his sense of calmness, and expanded his ability to be social. Talk about the luck of the draw!
My son’s positive experience of the impact a single color had on his life opened up a universe of inexpensive and easily available options of alternative therapies and techniques that we can add to our toolbox in this journey of discovery and improvement.
write by Alden