A: Changes in season mean a change in clothing, daylight hours, temperature, routines, etc, which can be challenging for individuals with difficulties with sensory integration or sensory processing, and co-existing diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here are some strategies for helping your child manage these changes:
Strategies for changing times and routines due to changes in daylight hours
- Gradually segue into the new time by, for example, making bedtime 15 minutes earlier for a few weeks.
- Share a social story (factual, pictorial step-by-step walk through) with your child about the change in time or daylight hours.
- Create a positive bedtime routine, introducing powering down of electronics an hour before bed and creating a calm, restful environment.
- Use a visual schedule to remind and reassure your child of the bedtime routine elements
- Provide tactile input to support calming in the form of favourite teddy, blanket, pillow, etc.
- Recognise that tired individuals may appear hyperactive and silly and may even get a second-wind after being tired. Allow extra time to wind down.
Changing clothing to match weather change:
Changing clothing type and weight to suit the new season can be distressing for some children, particularly if they are significantly sensitive to touch/tactile input.
- Listen to and respect your child’s preferences on fabric types, no seams or tags, etc.
- Help prepare sensitive skin for heavier clothing on arms and legs which have been bare during the warmer months. Strategies could include body brushing, lotions, and massaging the arms and legs.
- Think about how to make the change in the type of clothing in small steps, for example, offer a soft warm sweatshirt in addition to a t-shirt rather than moving immediately to a single heavier-weight top. Or move from shorts to soft tracksuit bottoms (sweatpants) if possible, rather than direct to long trousers made from stiffer fabric.
- Introduce more weather-proof shoes in short spurts rather than an immediate transition.
- Reduce stress in the morning by agreeing an outfit the night before.
- Changes in clothing type can also present challenges in dressing for children with difficulties with fine motor skills and praxis. Practise these skills and make accommodations where appropriate, for example, poppers instead of buttons, velcro instead of laces, loose clothing that can easily be slipped on and off, etc.
You can find more detailed advice in this article by OT, Kristi Jordan (OTR), at the Indiana Resource Centre for Autism.
Also, this is a very enlightening blog from an adult with ASD on their experience of coping with the changing seasons and temperatures which might help you understand your child’s experience.
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