Falling leaves, cooler days, warm fuzzy sweaters and coats, and less daylight. For many of us, Autumn is a favorite season. But for children with sensory issues, the transition from summer to fall can be very difficult. In the last few weeks, you may have noticed a regression with your child from a sensory or behavioral standpoint. The change in seasons may very well be the culprit.
Routine changes, time changes, and clothing changes can make the transition between seasons difficult for children who are sensory-sensitive or children with sensory processing disorders.
The internal clocks of children are very sensitive to seep/wake cycles and hunger cycles. Even the slightest changes in routine can be chaotic to their systems. Reinforce to your children that the clock tells us when it is bedtime, not the sun. I always recommend to parents to set a routine and stick to it during the time change. To help with the transition, you may need to set up a visual schedule with a clock indicating the time for eating and sleeping. The first two weeks or so can be difficult, but your child’s internal rhythms will eventually adjust.
The transition between light summer clothing and heavier fall clothing can also be difficult for children. Presenting clothing to your child before requiring them to wear it may provide an opportunity for them to get used to the idea of a new season of clothes. It may help to warm your child’s clothing in the dryer before presenting them. You may also be able to ease the transition by buying used clothing from thrift stores. Sensory sensitive children often can tolerate clothing that is softer and more worn.
For the most part, soft, breathable fabrics, tag-less shirts, covered elastic bands, or clothing without metal parts, heavy embroidery, or applique are easier for children to tolerate.
There are several options for buying sensory-friendly clothing, but these options can be somewhat expensive. Hanna Andersson offers a good option for boys and girls underpants. SoftClothing offers a wide variety of clothing for boys and girls. StrideRite and World’s Softest Socks both offer more tolerable seamless socks.
Some children also respond well to a pressure garment under their clothing (depending on their sensory preferences). Under Armour offers a good option for deep pressure without adding too much extra heat. Be prepared to buy smaller sizes to provide the deep pressure. Having a variety of socially appropriate clothing options and allowing the child to choose are important so the child has some sense of control over dressing.
For more information, consult with an experienced pediatric occupational therapist for specific recommendations for your child based on his/her individual sensory preferences.
Happy Fall to You All!
From our family to yours,
Melissa Hough, OTR/L, C/NDT
Owner, Children’s Therapy Center, PSC
Melissa Hough, OTR/L, C/NDT is an occupational therapist with over 20 years of pediatric experience and certifications in Sensory Integration (SI) and Neuro-Developmental Treatment (NDT). Melissa has a professional and personal perspective when working with children because she is also the adoptive parent of a child with special needs.
Since 2002, Children’s Therapy Center, PSC has served thousands of families in Louisville, Kentucky, by providing high-quality therapy services and parent education.