As the weather changes with the seasons, so does the clothing your child wears to stay warm in the freezing temperatures. Children with autism rely on a routine to stay balanced and engaged, but what happens when there is a need for a change in their routine? How can you best prepare your child for this change so that they can adapt with as little drama as possible? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you and your child through this change in routine and weather.
#1: Give advanced notice
When preparing for a change in routine with your child, it’s always a good idea to give them as much notice as possible. This timeframe could vary depending on your child’s preferences, either a couple of days or weeks in advance. When giving these advance notices, remind your child of what the routine will be once the change occurs. This way, they’ll have a better understanding of what to expect and may not be as afraid to try. Try including a social story to go along with these conversations to make them more understandable. This social story could include how their warmer clothing protects them from the cold weather and why that’s a good thing, and not simply a disruption to their normal routine.
#2: Practice with the clothing
The main difference going from summer clothes to winter clothes is that there is more fabric in contact with skin. Your child may have an adverse reaction to this type of clothing because it could irritate their skin or overstimulate them. Due to this issue, helping your child practice becoming more comfortable with this type of clothing is essential for a smooth transition. To practice, you’ll need to have a timer that will be used to keep track of how long your child has to wear the clothing before they can take it off. Start with as small of an increment of time as your child can handle, this will guarantee success for your child which should be rewarded with a favorite item or treat. After your child has become accustomed to the first increment of time, increase the amount until they are fully comfortable for extended periods of time wearing their heavier clothing. If your child has a harder time in the beginning with a full jacket, try having them wear a sleeve or hood of the jacket for a certain amount of time until they can finally wear the whole jacket on their own.
#3: Plan fun activities to do outside
Once your child understands their change in routine and has practiced putting on and wearing their heavier winter clothes, have them try it outside! Building snowmen, collecting rocks or leaves, catching snowflakes, and making a sled trail, are all fun and engaging activities that can be done outside when it’s cold or snowing. This can help make your child want to be outside in the cold weather more often. Since you are doing this at home, if your child becomes uncomfortable with being outside in the cold, they can always go inside to warm up. Practicing smaller, fun activities outside while wearing a winter coat, can help your child get accustomed to the cold and stay warm for longer periods of time.
In the end, this time of year is full of opportunities for you and your child to make memories and have new experiences together in a new atmosphere. We at BY YOUR SIDE hope that you and your family have a fun, safe, and warm winter season!
‘Autism and Cold Weather Dangers: Teen Needs Help Transitioning to Winter’. Autism Speaks. https://www.autismspeaks.org/expert-opinion/autism-cold-weather-dangers-teen-needs-help-transitioning-winter. Accessed 15 December 2020.
‘4 Tips to Help Manage Sensory Issues During Winter’. CBC Parents. https://www.cbc.ca/parents/learning/view/four-tips-to-help-manage-sensory-issues-during-winter. Accessed 15 December 2020.