Many individuals with autism value routine. It makes them feel secure to know when and why something is happening.
So when the time changes each spring and fall, some individuals may feel a loss of control and have a more difficult time adjusting than some people do. They may feel disoriented when it stays light later than usual or they do not feel hungry or tired at the usual times. Loss of sleep can add to their stress.
You can help lessen your loved one’s anxiety with these strategies:
- For some individuals, you may want to start communicating about the time change a week ahead. Let the individual know what day it’s going to happen and what to expect. For example, explain that it will begin to get dark later, and relate the timing to an event (e.g., dinnertime). For others, the anticipation of the event over a longer period of time may be confusing or stressful. In such cases, it might be best to prepare the individual on the day of the change.
- For some individuals, it is important to explain WHY the clocks are being changed. (After all, this can be tough for many of us adults to understand!) How detailed your explanations should be depends on the individual. The simplest explanation for Daylight Saving Time is that it helps us make better use of daylight; we change our clocks for the summer to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. If the individual is interested in science and would like to learn more, we recommend this article.
- Remember to use visual supports. Mark the date on the calendar. Show them photos depicting light with times marked on them.
- Use a social narrative to walk your child through what to expect from the time change. Here’s an example, but remember that social narratives work best when they include references to your child’s life and are adjusted to your child’s level of understanding.
- A week before the time change, the individual may need to start shifting bedtime earlier by increments each day until they build to the full hour adjustment.
- Once the time has changed, keeping the individual busy during the day to help him or her be tired by bedtime. Studies have shown that exercise can help the body adjust to a new schedule.
- Light-blocking shades can help in the individual’s bedroom.
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