How Color Affects Special Needs Learning

Our first impressions of products, people, and even the world are influenced by color. In fact, surveys have shown that color alone affects up to 90% of our first impressions. The first thing we notice about someone is the color of the shirt. The first thing about a new product is if it comes in a color we prefer.

But where do color preferences come from? And why is color so important to our world?

Color helps us identify the things in the world and gives them meaning. A red apple is probably ripe, whereas a brown one might not be safe to eat. Color is one of the first things we learn that helps us navigate the world.

Color can be especially useful for those with learning disabilities or processing disorders. Learn more about how color affects learning and how you can use it to help your students or child grow.

The Science Behind Color

From marketing to home decor, color impacts our buying decisions and mood. Color psychology is still new territory for researchers. It's clear that color impacts our moods and behaviors. The reasoning behind why certain colors impact us is still studied.

Color is most recently used strategically in branding and marketing efforts. But color has been used for centuries to symbolize certain things. From class differences to religious symbols, color is a part of how we understand our world.

We can use color in education to create spaces of calm or creativity. Color in education can help kids navigate new topics. It separates out subjects and leads to a better understanding of new topics. Colored and themed subjects also help some kids categorize new topics.

Color and Mood

Its well knew that different colors can affect our moods and even behaviors in the long term. A better understanding of how colors change our mood can help educators use them strategically in their classrooms.

Warm colors can increase our energy and emotional responses. They encourage creativity and energy but can also trigger quicker responses to anger or unease.

Cooler colors cause more calm responses. Blues and greens are often used by industries that want to promote a sense of trust and ease. Blue and green mimic the colors found in natural settings. This can put our stress on hold as we absorb the beauty of those colors.

Let's look at how common colors affect our everyday moods and even behaviors.


Red is powerful and used most often in food branding for its ability to increase appetites. Red also boosts excitement and energy. This can be an ideal color for playgrounds or playrooms and even cafeterias for picky eaters.


The color blue encourages calmness and security. It can create comforting scenes. Blue is also associated with loyalty and will be seen in brands that try to project trust like healthcare. Using blue in spaces dedicated to things like naps or reading can help encourage kids to remain calm while there.


Another warmer color that suggests energy and optimism. People who prefer yellow are often happier and more in tune with their creative side. Yellow is good for art areas or other spaces where you want to foster creativity among your students.


As a color found prominently in nature, green is most often found in conjunction with feelings from there. Emotions common with green include calm, growth, and balance. Green is a great color for any space in your classroom but especially for common areas where conflict may arise. A green room or hallway can help ease tensions that come from transitioning to and from school.


Similar to red, orange increases energy and passion. Fosters warmth and communication. Orange is a common color for adding energy to dull activity or space.

These are just some of the interpretations of colors and moods. Many of them can change based on the setting or person. Now that you know a little more about how colors affect us, let's dive into how we can harness the power of colors for learners with special needs.

Using Color to Foster Learning

Understanding the color wheel is one of the first things we implicitly pick up as we grow up. Color helps us navigate our world when we are young and helps us understand it as we grow.

For those with special learning needs attention to color as an educator is critical. Hypersensitivity to color can be apparent in processing disorders, ADHD, and other disabilities. Keep colors simple and muted for those that may be overwhelmed by bright or many different colors.

Keep colors in mind when using or creating text for students as well. Simple colors with a light background are best for reading. Easier reading will ultimately lead to a better understanding of the text given to them. Bright colors on documents can be distracting for those with special needs.

Use colors in the environment intentionally. Create specific spaces in your learning area for different activities. Different colors for different subjects or areas of a learning space can also help break up the day into easily identifiable sections.

Each activity can be associated with color to help those with special learning needs to understand what comes next. Use colors that boost energy in athletic events and calming ones for sedentary activities. This will help both you and your students get through the day with ease.

You can also try to use different colors on objects for differentiating space and depth. Help students with special needs comprehend chairs and tables as different with different colors. This helps them navigate their physical spaces.

Use Color the Right Way to Help Special Needs Kids

Color impacts not only our moods but our ability to focus. Utilize color in the right way to help your kids shine and retain more information. Colors can be used to help showcase important information or even categorize topics.

While the psychology of color is still evolving its important to know how it can impact you and your students. Creating spaces that reflect the energy in the colors can boost learning and happiness!

If you want to learn more ways you can help special needs kids learn, check out more of our content focused on helping special learners.

Browse our interactive books for more options for bringing your special needs/ autistic kids quality education every time.

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