Jan 14, 2019

Helping children with ASD manage the changing weather

Children playing in the snow

Notes from a GWAEA autism consultant and mom

Kelli Robertson is a trained speech-language pathologist who has worked at Grant Wood AEA for 19 years, and is currently a GWAEA autism consultant and assistive technology coach. She also is the parent of three kiddos who are unique thinkers/learners.

Happy 2019! We’ve made it to the mid-point of the school year. (Hooray!) Depending on your child, some children are excited to get back to school after winter break and get into a regular routine, while others are homebodies and crave the comfortable atmosphere of home. And have you noticed the weather? Yeesh! I don’t know about you, but the weather can really throw ME off, not to mention my own kids! One day you can go out with a sweatshirt on and no coat, another day you have to wear a coat, hat, and gloves… too many gray days in a row can make you dreary. One day might have to be an indoor recess; or the ice might throw off plans for a trip somewhere fun.

This variability can be very upsetting to children with ASD and/or anxiety. Luckily, there are a few things we can do to reduce their stress and make things more predictable with changing weather, clothing, and plans:

  • Use a visual reference chart of what to wear for what temperature. Create ‘rules’ of what to wear and when. Here is an example you can make a copy of and ‘edit’ for your clothing & rules.
  • Make a routine of looking out the window and looking up the daytime high temperature.
  • Use a social narrative about winter weather, like this one from Project Autism.
  • Building in choice can help some kids dress for weather (e.g., Do you want the blue hat or black hat today?)
  • If your child has a ‘preferred fit’ or sensory issues about aspects of clothing, many times you can find alternatives that ‘fit’ their need. For example, my son didn’t wear gloves in any temperature until we found ones that have the fingers cut out and the convertible mitten. (FYI… we bought 7 pairs of that same glove, same color!)
  • Some kids are uncomfortable about changes to indoor recess because they don’t know what to do. They might need ‘practice’ in indoor leisure activities like building Legos or putting together puzzles, etc.

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Category: The Carpool Lane