Sunday 11 December 2022

Protecting our autistic kids in winter weather

As it starts to get very cold, the snow starts to fall and the days become darker we still want to get out and about with our kids but need to be extra careful with them.  Our autistic kids can't always communicate with us about how their body is feeling and there senses can become overwhelmed by winter weather.  So what can we do to support them?

Protecting their skin

You’ve probably seen pictures of people skiing and getting tan lines from their ski goggles. In the summer, getting sunscreen out when the sun is blazing becomes like second nature but we don’t always think about it in the winter. 

Protecting your children from the sun when it’s been snowing is vital. It may feel counterintuitive but the snow can reflect up to 80% of the UV rays that the sun puts out.  

Kids skin is more sensitive to the cold, the winter sun and windburn.  Not all kids are comfortable with the feeling of wearing hats but covering their heads isn't just about keeping kids warm.  A kids trapper hat can be very good for also covering their cheeks and providing extra protection.  Windburn or cold cheeks or even a burnt scalp. If you notice your child’s skin getting red while you’re out, the best thing you can do is go indoors and apply aftersun to the skin to soothe it.

Protecting their eyes

Many kids with autism struggle with bright lights and in the winter the sun gets much lower meaning it can shine directly along our eyeline.  Sunglasses are a great idea but you don’t have to opt for traditional sunglasses in the winter.  You could also choose clear glasses with a blue blocker instead. Blue blockers are designed to protect eyes from sun damage so they’re ideal for this time of year.

Again trapper hats with peaks work in a similar way but again it can be difficult to protect from the low sun.  Sometimes I find I just end up walking in the place to put their face in the shade. 

Protecting their body

Obvious really, it's cold so we should put our coats on.  But not all kids coats, suit all kids.  Some kids will like the feeling of a full puffy jacket and others will want something lighter.  A coat can sometimes feel stiff or make loud crinkly noises that some kids won't like. If you are looking to develop independence skills, poppers may be better than zips or toggles.

Lastly, don't forget the hood. Make sure it's soft and comfortable.  Some hoods are skip like and will offer further protection from the elements on sensitive faces.  Some fall down easily and this can be worrying - ones that have elastic around the hood and helps keep it up even if it's windy.

If they can't stand getting cold or wet at all, you might want to think about a full kids snow suit to keep them dry.

Protecting their feet

Easier said than done with kids running around and jumping in puddles, or like my lot, simply not watching where they step.

Usually our ADHD and ASD son struggles with wellington boots.  They flop around on his feet, but these ones have slip in liners that keep his feet firmly in place so he doesn't fall or tire as easily. 

We can't get wellington boots on our younger son at all - he wears shoes, the same ones all the time. He feels safe in the same shoes when he goes out.  It's pretty common for autistic kids to want to wear their same shoes, even if the weather is different.

However, we can get him into comfortable bamboo socks which are breathable and wick away moisture.  They are also quick to dry if he does happen to get his feet a bit wet.

Finally, think about sound

Remember that crinkly coat?  And have you heard rain hammering on the path?  All these noises can be heightened if you are a child with autism or sensory processing difficulties. And it's not just the rain, I've seen the same thing when it's windy too.

A waterproof hat may help with this, especially if it was under a hood. Kids ear muffs or ear defenders may work for others.   Go for whatever interests you child.  Anthony wouldn't wear any until we presented him with super hero ear muffs and then it worked.  Appealing to a special interest can help.

If you have any any other ideas, let us know. 

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