How the changing seasons affect an autistic child

How the changing seasons affect an autistic child

School holidays are around the corner and so is the Easter long weekend!  Which also marks the start of Autumn in South Africa. Changing seasons is not a thing adults talk about!  What I mean by this is people or rather normal developing people don’t talk so much about what happens when seasons change.

Sure – people may say they’re looking forward to the cooler weather and for some winter jerseys and fluffy blankets is sensory heaven.  But have you ever wondered how the changing seasons affect an autistic child?

Autumn means cooler weather; it means shorter days and longer nights.  Autumn means a lot of change.  Change is something most autistic children struggle with, so parents need to be prepared for possible behavioral changes.

How the changing seasons affect an autistic child will differ because autism is a spectrum disorder, and each child is affected differently.

Here are a few common topics families may struggle with:

Clothing changes – clothing challenges are common among people with an autism spectrum disorder.  Some children are hypersensitive to textures and do not like the sensation of clothes against their skin.   Other children may prefer short sleeves over long sleeves so these changes will need to be navigated during the season change.

Shoe changes – most children with ASD struggle with shoes and prefer to be barefoot other children struggle to cope with socks against the skin or the seam of socks – so seasonal changes may cause frustrating moments for families.  New shoes can be difficult for children with ASD to accept so be sure to have a strategy in place.

Longer nights and shorter days – time perception of individuals with autism can cause behavioral challenges if a child associates darkness with being at home, bath time, or even dinner.  A change in the time that it gets dark, or light will also affect sleeping patterns for many children on the spectrum.

Medical challenges – Autumn means the start of flu season – it also means leaves are falling off trees and dust is everywhere.  Sinus problems and a child not being able to blow their nose can cause fierce tantrums and terrible emotional outbursts, and so too can a sick child that is not able to communicate their feelings.

The best piece of advice we have is that parents need to understand that seasonal changes affect their children.  When you are dealing with a new behavior these holidays consider all aspects relating to seasonal changes.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.