AT HOME WITH
Last Tuesday, I spent the morning gawking at the television and listening to the weatherman warn us about the upcoming rain and snow that could affect our holiday. I began to process the changes that we will need to make around the house to accommodate this shift. Disconnect the garden hoses, make sure the windows are sealed efficiently, pack up summer clothes and put them in storage and various other tasks that will help to prepare for the upcoming change in temperature.
Any time I hear the word change, I immediately think of my friends impacted by autism. My previous blog highlighted ways to make the holidays easier, but we often forget about all of the other small changes that occur around us during seasonal weather changes. The shift in clothing is often a big one that I think about, especially for those who prefer loose-fitting, tag-less, fuzz-free outerwear. For some reason, winter clothing screams itchy fuzz for me. Or maybe it's the swish, swosh, swish, swosh sound of snow pants that make me think of uncomfortable winter clothes. In reality, clothing isn't the only major accommodation we must make during the seasonal shift. There are many ways we adapt because of the temperature change. More lotion for dry skin, less outdoor play and exposure to the natural environment, more school cancellations and the flu bug are among my least favorite adjustments. When we think about the frustration that accompanies any type of adjustment that we must make for these shifts and then add on difficulty with change and struggle with communication of needs and desires, we are often left with increased stress and elevated behavior management difficulty. An equation that often looks like this:
Frustration + Difficulty with Change + Struggle with Communication = ⬆ Increased Stress and Aberrant Behavior
One of the most beneficial strategies to help with this is to provide significant preparation for the shifts. Visual schedules, social stories, timers, verbal warnings and calendars are a staple for us at CARE, but there are some things that just require adjustment and patience. Visual schedules may not help with dry skin or unforeseen school cancellations due to weather. For unpredictable events, deep breaths, asking for help from loved ones and self-care are among my top recommendations for parents and caregivers of those impacted by an autism spectrum disorder. Knowing you are not alone is important. In February, we will be launching parent support groups that will help parents relate to one another and share stories without judgment to help out with changes and other issues. Email us at email@example.com if you are interested in getting on our list for this parent support group!