Light Therapy

Light Therapy For Children & Youth

By John Downing, OD, PhD, © Copyright 2008.

Light Therapy Has Helped Kids With

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Arithmetic difficulties
  • Arthritis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder
  • Autism
  • Balance problems
  • Behavior problems
  • Borderline personality structure
  • Brain damage
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Conduct disorder problems
  • Coordination
  • Depression
  • Developmental delays
  • Developmental retardation
  • Digestion problems
  • Disorganization
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Dyslexia
  • Epilepsy
  • Headaches
  • Hyperactivity
  • Learning differences
  • Learning disabilities
  • Rage
  • Reading difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Short term memory deficiency
  • Speech problems
  • Stress
  • Wandering eye problems

Light Therapy Can Help In The Following Areas

Body: Light Therapy eliminates physical problems such as fatigue, insomnia, hyperactivity, poor coordination, balance difficulties, autonomic and endocrine imbalances.

Spirit: Light Therapy gives the soul back its light and helps the spirit soar. It takes the innate energy of the child or youth, which the mind sends out into the world, and grounds it more deeply into the soul. It allows the child or youth to control their energy instead of the energy controlling the child.

Mind: Intellectual difficulties are lessened; including poor reading comprehension, pronunciation, concentration, memory, organizational ability, and mathematical ability.

Emotions: Emotional problems are reduced or eliminated; including low self-esteem, depression, fears and anxieties, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Social: When the body, mind and emotions of a child are functioning optimally and the spirit is soaring, social interactions will be appropriately smooth and rewarding.

Brief Description of Light Therapy

  • Colored Light Therapy utilizes specific colors of light shined into the eyes to stimulate and enhance brain function.
  • This therapeutic light stimulates almost every cell in the brain, which in turn improves brain and body chemistry and function.
  • Colored Light Therapy is a medically supervised program that guides the patient through a series of therapies that result in better vision, improved mental functioning, emotional processing and improved coordination.

Success With Light Therapy

  • A nine year old girl with hyperactivity, poor concentration and reading difficulties, received one month of Light Therapy. Afterward her behavior improved and she began passing all her school subjects.
  • A sixteen year old girl suffered form headaches and allergies. After 40 Light Therapy sessions, her physical symptoms improved, as well as her reading and learning abilities.
  • A seven year old boy, who had suffered a series of minor head injuries and the separation of his parents, had poor self-esteem, learning disabilities, and a severe withdrawal from life. His emotional distress would cause him to vomit. After 14 sessions of colored Light Therapy he made a complete reversal in personality. He began verbalizing emotional problems, and was comfortable making eye contact for the first time in his life! His self-esteem skyrocketed and his learning ability improved. He is now interacting normally with other children and making friends.
  • My six year old son has come out of his withdrawn, non-communicative state and is now for the first time in his life talking to me like a regular, normal human being. He has also moved from the slow reading group to the fast reading group and from failing math to getting A’s. His mother says that he now goes to sleep without being told several times and that he sleeps much better. All of these positive changes are the result of his experiencing the Colored Light Therapy.

~Father, Oakland, California

  • All eight learning-disabled students who used the Downing technique of colored Light Therapy showed a significant expansion of their visual fields. Four students demonstrated reading rate gains of 2.1 to 3.4 grade levels and one student tested 8.8 grade levels higher after therapy. All reported gains in visual clarity, mental clarity and emotional well-being.

~Learning Disability Specialist, California State University

Light Therapy Is Appropriate For Ages

  • Three to adult

Children & Youth’s Reactions To Light Therapy

  • Children usually find the experience of looking at the gently flashing light to be fun and captivating.
  • Approximately 85% of children receiving Light Therapy experience significant improvements.
  • When a child’s abilities have been suppressed for so long and when these abilities are given back to them over such a short period of time, they can open up and blossom.

Extra Care Is Needed

  • The child or youth should be closely observed during Light Therapy by an experienced practitioner, in order to ensure that each color stimulus given is appropriate.

Contraindications: When Light Therapy Should Be Avoided

  • Children suffering from photo-convulsive seizures should not be stimulated with a flashing light. In these instances, the practitioner will use a non-flashing light source for therapy.


  • In 1903, Niels Finsen was awarded the Nobel Prize for the use of Light Therapy in the treatment of tuberculosis.
  • In the 1920’s, Medical Doctor and Optometrist, Riley Spitler, began successfully using Light Therapy for the correction of vision problems.
  • In 1958, Robert Gerard PhD’s research supported a therapeutic use of light for psycho-physiological functions.
  • In the 1970’s, Dr. Downing developed a therapeutic application of light that focuses on the development of overall brain function which enhances mental, emotional, physical well-being and performance. This protocol has been taught to thousands of health care practitioners who are practicing world-wide.

Basic Concepts And Components Of Light Therapy

  • When the brain-vision connection is not working properly, a myriad of dysfunction can occur in the individual.
  • Deficiencies in the brain-vision connection can be eliminated or reduced by stimulating the optic nerves and neural pathways going to the brain, with specific exposure to colored lights.
  • Once stimulated, the improved brain-vision connection will continue even after the therapy has ended.

Description Of A Typical Session

  • A child sits comfortably in front of a Light Therapy device that shines the appropriate color and flash rate of light into the child’s eyes.

Major Differences Of Opinion Between Practitioners

  • Most practitioners use Light Therapy to directly and immediately start rebalancing the system.
  • Some practitioners, primarily psychologists, will use Light Therapy to initially provoke a negative response in order to bring unresolved trauma to the surface. This negative response is then dealt with through continued color stimulation and psychotherapy until balance is achieved.

Fees/Costs In 2007 – Averages

  • $45.00 per Light Therapy session

Average Time Per Session

  • Initial Evaluation: 1 hour
  • Daily light therapy sessions: 20 minutes
  • A “series” of therapy is one month of daily sessions (30 total sessions)

Recommended Length Of Time Between Sessions

  • 3 to 4 sessions per week are the minimum.
  • 5 to 7 sessions of Light Therapy per week gives the best results.

Estimated Length Of Time Before Improvements Can Be Expected

  • Beneficial results should be noted after one to seven sessions of therapy.

Suggestions To Make Light Therapy More Effective

  • Make sure the child does the therapy regularly.

Other Methods That Are Similar To Light Therapy

  • There is probably no other health care technique that safely goes directly into the brain in a similar way to enhance brain and body function in such a profound way.

Other Methods That Complement Light Therapy

  • All other methods of health care complement Light Therapy.

Nature And Length Of Training To Be A Practitioner

  • This varies widely, but light therapists are often licensed as some type of health care professional; such as, medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, optometrists, acupuncturists, chiropractors or naturopaths.

Special Training Needed To Work With Children & Youth

  • The same protocol is used with both children and adults.

Certification/Licenses Held By Practitioners

  • There are no state or federal license requirements.

Professional Associations To Contact For Names Of Local Practitioners

Number Of Certified Practitioners In U.S., Canada, And Mexico

  • Several hundred

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Practitioner

  • How long has the practitioner been doing Light Therapy?
  • Do they have experience with the problems your child is experiencing?
  • Ask them to explain their technique.
  • Does what they say make sense physiologically.

Research Papers

  • Rustigan, CJ. “Effects of Colored Light and Relaxation Exercise Therapy on Adults with Learning Disabilities.” Education Resources Information Center 1996.
  • Liberman, J. “The Effects of Syntonic Stimulation on Certain Visual and Cognitive Functions.” Journal of Optometric Vision Development 1986; 17 (June).
  • Kaplan, R. “Changes in Form Visual Fields in Reading Disabled Children Produced by Syntonic Stimulation.” The International Journal of Biosocial Research 1983: 5 (1):20-33.
  • Gerard, R. Differential Effects of Colored Lights on Psychophysiological Functions. Unpublished Doctorial Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, California. (1976).


  • Breiling, Brian (Ed). Light Years Ahead: The Illustrated Guide to Full Spectrum and Colored Light in Mindbody Healing. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1996.
  • Wurtman, Richard, Michael Baum and John Potts. “The Medical and Biological Effects of Light” (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences) Volume 453, September 20, 1985.
  • Hollwich, Fritz. The Influence of Ocular Light Perception on Metabolism in Man and in Animal. New York: Springer-Verlag, c1979.

Helpful Tips For Parents

  • Colored Light Therapy should be supervised by an experienced practitioner.
  • Some practitioners will provide colored Light Therapy instruments for use in the home while they guide the parent and child through therapy by telephone.

Biography Of John Downing, Author

  • John has over 30 years of experience.
  • He has worked with hundreds of children and youth.
  • He holds an OD, PhD in Vision Science.

To Contact John Downing, Who Contributed This Chapter

John Downing; c/o Light Therapy Institute; 708 Gravenstein Hwy. North #286; Sebastopol, CA 95472; Ph: 707-829-1478; Fax: 707-829-3444: Email: johndowning88@comcast.net

Marie Mulligan’s Comment About Light Therapy: I have not had much experience with Light Therapy. I have had children/patients benefit from it.

Rick Geggie’s Comment About Light Therapy: Light Therapy is one of the most amazing practices I have encountered and experienced. I have used it myself for years. I have been very impressed with the results with all the Light Therapy referrals I have made. I look forward to the day when Light Therapy is used in every school. I have found that it compliments almost every other helpful practice for children, including Western Medicine.

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