Tips for Avoiding the Snowed-In Struggles

Winters in the Midwest are crazy, right? One week it’s 30 degrees with dry, but frozen, ground. The next we’re 15 inches deep in snow with a -32 windchill. The big question that seems to pop up every time we get snowed in is how do we keep a sense of normalcy and routine (especially for our friends who need structure with their Autism diagnosis) when the world around us closes due to frigid temps and the people and things inside our home suddenly become all that we have?

According to Dr. Sarah Miller, a licensed psychologist and BCBA with the Autism Center at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, schedule and lifestyle changes can be “particularly distressing for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because of their unique combination of symptoms.”

Oftentimes, children with ASD struggle to adjust to changes in routine and may have difficulty with social communication, understanding the perspective of others around them, or reading social cues. So when we’re all stuck inside at our max level of being around each other, here are some tips to help avoid the snowed-in struggles.

Try to keep portions of your daily routine.
Sure the kiddos might not be heading off to school at 8:00 a.m., but maybe they could still get dressed and eat breakfast with the same structure to help start their day off right. Additionally, keeping the same bedtime routine can also prove beneficial in helping everyone wind down at the end of the day. It may also be helpful to implement calming activities like reading books, looking through photo albums, snuggling with a favorite plush buddy, etc.

Rotate interest and engagement.
Sometimes to prevent boredom (or fixation) we need to get creative. Sorting the toys of interest into separate bins and only pulling down one bin at a time can help to keep your child engaged with those toys for a longer period, if they don’t have access to all of their toys for the entire day.

Choose your battles.
It’s okay to let some things “slide” when you’re on your third snow day of the week. Everyone starts to feel like a bottle of soda being shaken with the lid on. Not everything has to be done in perfect rhythm. The laundry can be done when the kiddos return to school.

Pencil in special time.
Adding a portion of the day where you and your child can connect uninterrupted, may help your child feel less restless. When everyone is snowed in, some still working from home, others struggling with the constant demands from them, we tend to see more tantrums because our children are responding to boredom, a major routine change, or even to the lack of attention they expected, or maybe are used to. And vice versa, as parents, sometimes that constant demand for our attention can be quite taxing. Make sure you pencil in time for yourself too! Maybe it’s 15 minutes for a hot shower, or reading a book while your kiddos play.

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