Don’t let the recent time change upset your child! When you have a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder who thrives on routine, the time change can be very disruptive. Transitions such as these are difficult for young children and can lead to challenging behaviors. Adjusting your clocks forward or back can have a big impact on not just your child, but on everyone in your home. Here are some things to consider to prevent this annual event from having a negative impact on your household.
Question: How can you get your entire family to spring forward happily along with the clocks?
Answer: Stick to a schedule.
Why? Schedules and routines are an extremely important part of any child's life. Having a schedule and sticking to it in times like these will help your child feel a sense of stability despite the loss of an hour. Even though they may not realize an hour has vanished, their body’s internal clock will detect it. Depending on the child, springing forward can have a significant impact on them. Keeping everything else the same will help.
Question: What are the benefits of using a schedule?
Answer: It will diminish your child’s anxiety.
How? Anxiety is normally an issue for most children, on or off the spectrum, and switching to Daylight Saving Time has the potential for triggering a state of worry or stress. When the timing of things like bedtime, getting up and getting ready for school typically happened in the light or dark and suddenly this is different, it can easily create anxiety or resistance in a child. Maintaining the same routine in all other respects will help prevent anxiety from causing resistance because it will reassure your child that everything else is staying the same. Knowing what to expect makes life more predictable and therefore less stressful.
Schedules are also extremely helpful when trying to get a child to do something he or she does not want to do. Let’s face it, going shopping or a doctor’s visit is not much fun but simply showing a child that after they do one thing they will move onto something else can help motivate them from one task to the next.
Question: What is the best type of calendar to maintain?
Answer: A visual schedule.
Why? Having visual images (words or pictures) for all the daily activities allows your child to see what is coming next and having this predictability will help avoid emotional breakdowns. Keeping the schedule posted where your child can refer to it often is helpful as well. That way they can refresh their memory at any time about what’s coming up.
Question: What do I do if plans change?
Answer: Use it as a teaching tool.
How? Many parents get concerned that if they put an event on a calendar their child will expect it to happen. And when it doesn’t their child will fall apart. Children have to learn that no matter how hard we try things don’t always go as planned but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Your job is not to shelter your children from all disappointment but to teach them how to cope with it.
If you ever have to make a change in your family calendar/schedule, explain the shift to your child as soon as possible and transfer the pictures on the calendar to the newly designated date and time. This is an opportunity to teach your child that nothing is set in stone and sometimes plans have to change.
There will always be things that come up on occasion that have the potential to throw a child’s world out of whack, day or night. It’s always best to be prepared when troublemakers like Daylight Saving Time show up and cause interference. Being proactive and doing what you can to get back on track as soon as possible will help maintain a calm household before temperaments and behaviors get out of hand.