Article first published as Changes in Routine: Challenges with Daylight Savings on Technorati.
Daylight Savings is great for those who look forward to daylight when they get home from work, but everyone dreads the time change in the Fall and Spring. Do we add or subtract an hour? When exactly does it happen? How will I catch up on my sleep?
These are common questions that I have heard from friends and family. But things are a little different with a child on the Spectrum. For those who are not aware, most children like routine, rules, and order (even if they sometimes don't follow them). But children with Autism need their routine. Changes in the routine can send some children into meltdowns, others become wired and are unable to cope with what would otherwise be a normal daily routine. Parents become frustrated, and often lose sleep as their children have a hard time adjusting to a time change on the clock.
For instance, my youngest son, regardless of what the clock says, will almost always wake up at 5:00 AM. Now that Daylight Savings has changed, it is now 4:00 AM he wakes up, ready to start the new day. It doesn't matter what time he goes to sleep because he still wakes up early in the morning. And instead of taking days to adjust as typical children, it's weeks.
My oldest, who likes to sleep in (relatively, you understand, as he gets up by 7:00 AM), now gets up at 6:00 AM, and has to wait an extra hour for the bus to arrive. Because of this breach in his schedule, he becomes hyper and destructive. The change in the routine has disrupted his life to a point where coping is all he can do until he adjusts to the new time change.
Now, I'm not sharing this to complain about Daylight Savings, but rather to share a small window in the life a child with Autism and how different it can be for the parents. It's something to keep in mind when major changes happen in one's life, so you can better prepare a child for that change.
For every change in our family routine, we prepare our children as best we can. For Daylight Savings, we try to adjust the children's sleeping patterns ahead of time. For vacations, we prepare with small road trips ahead of time. For school schedules and breaks for the Holidays and Summer Vacation, we try to fill their time with activities that distract them from the change in routine.
It's all a day in the life of a parent with a child on the Spectrum.