Light On, Light Off?

By Activity Bank on Dec 11, 2013

This activity has been revised and was originally created by Vickie Brennan, Flo Ryu and Dennis Lolli and published in the Perkins Activity and Resource Guide (1st edition, Volume 2, 1992).  The second edition is available for purchase.

For students with a small amount of functional vision, particularly those with multiple disabilities who don’t respond to much else, light can be a strong reinforcer. This activity helps teachers test that theory. The student will indicate a preference for the activity by responding with a positive change in affect (smile, laugh) and/or by gesturing or moving toward the adult or item using her hand or body, as the light is slowly moved away from the student. Lessons include Orientation and Mobility.


  • Lamp
  • Curtains, shades
  • Use light that does not produce a “click” sound
  • Round closet light with pull chain
  • Different colored light bulbs


Turn lights on and off while the student is facing the light source.light switch


  • Use a dimmer switch if available.
  • Vary the distance of the light source to the student: start within three feet and increase the distance between the student and the light source.
  • If the student consistently startles to the initial presentation of the light, provide warning cues such as, “One, two, three…On!” (turn light on). Then “One, two, three…Off! (turn light off).
  • Vary the size of the light, for example, penlight versus a flashlight.
  • Try different types of lights that turn on and off, such as fiber optic lights (from specialty/party stores)
  • If the student is able, have him turn the light on and off himself.

Hints: Don’t shine light directly into the student’s eyes. If the student shows signs of visual discomfort, such as repeated rubbing of the eyes, tearing or reddening of the eyes, discontinue the procedure. Avoid flashing lights, as they can cause seizures.

light collage