The weather outside is getting cooler which means hot chocolate, family gatherings, and snow; but for children with autism, it also means a change in activities and clothing that they have been comfortable with for the last several months. Children on the spectrum often need preparation for any big change in their lives, and a change in weather is no different.
With that in mind, here are some quick tips in making this transition more successful:
- Dressing for the weather – Start discussing with your child the clothing that is appropriate to wear for different weather situations. You could look at weather forecasts in the evening and have your child pick out an outfit based on what the weather is going to be like. This way if the child sees that it is supposed to snow, they may be more agreeable to putting on boots in the morning because they can anticipate that it is going to happen. They could even practice dressing a favorite doll or stuffed animal in the same weather appropriate clothing!
- Desensitization to textures – Winter clothing is often big, bulky, and scratchy — a far cry from t-shirts and sandals that don’t touch your skin very much in the summer. When purchasing winter items, be conscious of tags or sewing patterns that could cause the inside of the garment to be uncomfortable. It may even be helpful to buy certain items a size too big so it is not as close to the skin.
- Practice makes perfect – Before the time comes to need to wear winter clothing, practice! Have your child wear a hat for five minutes a few times a day and slowly increase the time. This will make it easier when wearing that hat for longer periods of time is necessary. Don’t forget to give your child a lot of praise (and maybe even a special treat) for keeping the items on!
- Give your child a choice – Often times, giving a child a choice will make the actual wearing of the item more successful. You could use language such as, “It is cold today! We need to wear a hat. Do you want to wear the blue one or the red one?” When a child feels like they have control over their decisions, they may be more likely to engage in the behavior that follows. After all, it doesn’t really matter which hat they wear, they just need to wear one!
- Indoor activities – One of the best things about summer, is being able to play outside. Start working on activities that can be done inside. Children can get bored easily in the winter because they do not know what to do. Children on the spectrum often do not know how to engage in different activities and need to be shown how to play with them. Modeling these activities could be entertaining for everyone! Puzzles, board games, coloring, building blocks, and other toys are fun if the child knows they are available and knows how to play with the items appropriately.
by Margaret Hatteberg, BCBA Specialist, AHSS