So it's officially Spring now, at least by the calendar. In a few weeks, the weather will be warmer and it will time to start doing more fun things outside. Your kids, though they have special needs, will want to go to parks and do more outdoor things just like their neurotypical peers. The only thing that may be a little different is their experiences of Spring Fever.
I know for my son, when Spring hits, so do more sensory challenges, particularly when the weather zigzags between hot, cold, rainy, humid etc. What's a parent to do grappling with regular spring fever, and not wanting to do homework combined with bigger sensory issues? Though it requires some minor tweaking each year, I have come up with 5 ways that help our family survive Spring Fever each year.
5 Ways to Handle Spring Fever Special Needs Style:
1) Write a Social Story about Spring: I know this one is obvious, right? But many parents don't think to do this, myself included in the past. Now it doesn't have to be formal, but doing some rough sketches or notes about the changing temperatures, the desire to want to be outside more, about school coming to an end soon, will help your child start to normalize feelings of change in the air. This will decrease even if only for a bit, sensory challenges.
2) Prepare sensory bins and/or corners in the house for those hard Spring days: I always have a little sensory bin or corner ready in the house if my son needs to blow off steam due to weather fluctuations etc. If he comes through the door and I KNOW it has been one of "those days," I will gently remind him where it is.
3) Put up a new schedule for after-school hours adjusting for time outside etc.: We have a fall, winter and spring after-school schedule which we adhere to. We'll talk about it, then draw it on paper with some words added, and put it up on the fridge so my son can see the schedule.
Winter: 1) bathroom 2) snack 3) homework 4) play in house
Spring: 1) bathroom 2) snack 3) homework 4) play in house OR park
4) Weather permitting, plan for family walks or outdoor time to handle stress better: I find that my son needs to do more walks outside or time in the park not just because it is so inviting, but it helps him handle the other stresses at this time of year. We will often talk as we walk and this helps with anxieties too, his and mine.
5) Make sure everyone is sleeping well: Another biggie is sleep. Make sure that your child, and you, are getting as good a nights' sleep as possible, as bad sleep exacerbates stress. Pairing exercise in the early part of the evening will help all sleep well.
Remember parents, this is a fun but tricky time of the year for all of us with the hour change, St. Patrick's Day, and holidays like Easter coming a little earlier too. It's fun celebrating all these events, but they can trigger stress in our kids and ourselves unless we have the proper tools to handle them. I hope the 5 tools I provided can be useful to families, and feel free to adapt them as you see fit. Remember, no one knows your child better than you do as their parent. Happy Spring to all!
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