For Immediate Release: January 21, 2019

SMUD seeks local families for research project on lighting and autism

Initial pilot showed lighting had positive impacts on children with autism

SMUD is seeking local families for 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.

“Studies have shown that lighting affects our circadian rhythms and may have impacts upon our health and behaviors,” said SMUD’s Lighting Expert Connie Samla. We’re excited that our initial tests showed promise, so we wanted to reach 30 additional families to further identify changes in sleep and behavioral patterns.”

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.

For the first study, SMUD partnered with the Folsom Cordova Unified School District to study the effects of tunable LED lighting systems in the classroom and at two homes of children with autism. After 16 months of study, technical experts found positive results and released their findings with recommendations for further home study. 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.

EDITOR NOTE: SMUD has families and teachers available to speak upon request.

About SMUD

As the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned, not-for-profit, electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for more than 70 years to Sacramento County and small adjoining portions of Placer and Yolo Counties. SMUD is a recognized industry leader and award winner for its innovative energy efficiency programs, renewable power technologies, and for its sustainable solutions for a healthier environment. SMUD’s power mix is about 50 percent non-carbon emitting. For more information, visit