By Samantha Sallade, Ph.D.
Dr. Sallade is a certified school psychologist who is experienced in evaluating children for autism and other neurodevelopmental challenges. She is the Director of Clinical Outreach of As You Are, a virtual clinic dramatically increasing access to early autism diagnostic services through the use of exclusively telehealth appointments.
Spring is a time of new energy and renewal, including the start of warmer weather. It also brings with it some changes, from new routines (outside play!) to different clothes and foods. For children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), spring’s changes can mean changes to a comfortable routine – and that can be really challenging.
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to help ease your kiddo into spring and minimize the distress that can come with changes. Here are our top tips for working with your child to transition into the warmer weather.
Tackle the clothes issue
Some youngsters relish the change to short sleeves and sandals, while others don’t want to give up winter coats and heavy layers. To make getting ready in the morning a smoother process:
- Offer choices, so your child can pick his or her favorites.
- Consider tagless and seamless clothing options.
- If you need to purchase new outfits (kids grow so fast!), consider bringing your child along to pick some things out.
- If your child has a clothing item that is a clear favorite, buy more than one (and buy the next size up too, just in case).
Whatever changes your child needs to make to accommodate spring’s warmer temperatures, make sure to practice ahead of time. It could be something simple, like practicing how to put on spring clothes and shoes. It could be more complicated, like practicing routines around changes to the schedule, including new activities or introducing new foods. Whatever changes tend to be challenging, a little practice ahead of time can really help.
Assemble a social story
Just as you might do at the beginning of a new school year, spring is a great time to refresh your child’s social storyboard. Using a series of pictures with brief labels on a poster board, your child can review what to expect. You can include:
- Changes your child may find outdoors, like flowers or bugs
- Changes in temperature
- Changes in clothing
- Changes in schedule and who your child will see
Be mindful of transitioning inside from outdoors
Going back inside after outside play can be difficult for many children, so work to establish strong routines around going back inside. Including something inside that your child will look forward to, like playing with a particular toy, eating a healthy snack or watching a favorite video, can help make going back inside easier.
Celebrate spring with fun activities
There’s so much to look forward to in spring, and doing some creative activities and crafts can help your child get into the spirit. Crafts with spring themes like bright colors, butterflies, trees and flowers can be fun and are simple to adapt to different abilities and preferences. Spring is also a great time to reintroduce water play!
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