As the seasons change, there are many factors to keep in mind. There are changes in the temperature, clothing, smells, and amount of daylight. Change can be difficult for some people. It may even be more challenging for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), who can thrive on routine and predictability.
Each time the season changes, we adapt our bodies and the way we dress. Although many of us don’t think twice about this- it can present challenges for those with sensory sensitivities. Temperatures and textures of clothes feel different on our skin. An individual with autism may not be able to express the discomfort they are feeling.
Offer choices! For example, take your child shopping and have them choose which clothes to purchase if new ones are needed. You can even give them the option to choose what clothes they will wear each day. If controlled choices are needed, offer 2-3 options that are all acceptable. Once they select clothing options, have them practice. It can be a good idea to try on and practice wearing some of the clothes ahead of time. Remember to provide praise and encouragement throughout this process!
Tips to Consider
The fit of the clothes – make sure their clothes fit well. Your child’s body shape will change from year to year and putting your child into clothes that are too tight will cause problems for your child from a sensory perspective.
Parents often make the mistake of buying clothes that are loose fitting because they think that buying big clothes this year will save them from purchasing clothes next year. This can create the same number of sensory problems for your child so make sure that you buy clothes that fit comfortably.
Consider the fabric from which the clothes are made – often fabrics such as denim and cotton have a hard feel against the child’s skin and many individuals with autism will react badly to these textures.
Remove all tags from the inside of new clothes before you give them to your child to wear.
Dress your child in layers so that it is easy for them to remove clothes when they get too hot or add clothes when they are feeling cold.
Winter clothes can feel very heavy and restrictive, consider lightweight down or other fabric for outerwear
Washing new clothes before the child wears them – a huge sensory drain can be caused by “new” clothes because they have a “shop” smell and they are often treated with hard starches which can aggravate your child’s senses.
Social narratives are stories that you can use to prepare your child for the changes that will occur as we transition into winter. They use simple sentences and a visual format to explain and increase understanding of a situation. This can help your child prepare for less daylight and time outside.
You can also include fun activities that your child can do now that the weather is getting cooler. Cooking/baking or indoor arts & crafts are great options! Think about activities your child enjoys doing during the upcoming season and include this in your story. Try to incorporate some fun activities related to winter!
It’s important to remember that a change in the season is a chance for a fresh start because it allows for new things to explore and different activities to try. With a little planning and preparation ahead of time, it can be an enjoyable experience for your child and family!