As a heatwave sweeps across the United Kingdom, it's essential for parents, carers, and teachers to be aware of the unique challenges faced by autistic children during hot weather. This blog post provides valuable advice and practical tips on how to help autistic children stay cool, comfortable, and safe during the scorching temperatures. By implementing these strategies, we can ensure their well-being and enjoyment throughout the summer months.
Understand Sensory Sensitivities:
Autistic children often experience heightened sensory sensitivities, which can be intensified during a heatwave. Children may feel the heat absolutely unbearable in terms of the temperature, but it is also the associated sensations that can bring about upset. For example, the sweat, the tackiness of damp skin, the need to wear more flowy, loose clothing or to wear hats...all of this can be extremely uncomfortable. Additionally, and sometimes I can sympathise with a lot, is the increase in pollen which obviously irritates children with hayfever. The sneezing, itchy eyes, running nose is awful for anyone, but for an autistic child, it can be a constant sensory overload which may lead to more frequent meltdowns. Educate yourself about your child's specific sensory needs to better comprehend their reactions and preferences. This knowledge will help you tailor your support effectively.
Encourage your child to wear loose, lightweight clothing made from breathable fabrics, such as cotton or linen. Opt for lighter colours that reflect sunlight and minimize heat absorption. Sun hats and sunglasses can provide additional protection, though for some children this may be distressing as it is additional sensory input. For some children, they can really struggle not wearing their full school uniform each day, including jumpers, ties, etc. Where possible, encourage them to at least take parts of their uniform off, but if they really won't take anything off, keep a particular close eye on them during outside play.
Hydration is Key:
Ensure children stay hydrated by offering them water frequently throughout the day. Encourage them to drink even if they don't feel thirsty. Consider using a water bottle with markings to track their intake. You can also include flavoured water or natural fruit-infused drinks to make it more appealing.
Seek Shade and Cool Spaces:
Identify cool areas where your child can take refuge during the hottest parts of the day. Set up shaded outdoor spaces or consider using sunshades and umbrellas. Indoors, create a cool environment using fans or air conditioning. This helps prevent overheating and minimizes discomfort.
Water Play and Cooling Activities:
Engage children in water-based activities as a fun way to stay cool. Set up a paddling pool, water sprinkler, or water balloon games in a shaded area. This can provide sensory stimulation while keeping them refreshed. Incorporate other cooling activities such as sensory bins with ice or frozen toys.
Sunscreen and Sun Protection:
Protect your child's skin from harmful UV rays by applying sunscreen with a high SPF. Choose a sunscreen that is suitable for their specific sensitivities, such as fragrance-free or hypoallergenic options. Children often don't like having sun cream applied, so try using this amazing sun cream applicator which children apparently love to use and saves the tears and meltdowns. Teach them about the importance of staying in the shade and wearing a hat and sunglasses when outdoors.
Adjust Daily Routine:
During exceptionally hot days, consider modifying children's daily routine. Opt for outdoor activities in the cooler mornings or evenings when the temperatures are lower. Adjust meal times to avoid cooking in a hot kitchen. Offer lighter meals that include lots of hydrating fruits and vegetables.
Communicate and Prepare:
Prepare your child in advance for changes in routine caused by the heatwave. Use visual schedules or social stories to help them understand and cope with any alterations to their usual activities. Provide clear and concise explanations about the weather, plans for the day, and any necessary adaptations.
By implementing these tips and strategies, you can ensure that autistic children in your care can navigate the heatwave safely and comfortably. Remember to be attentive to their individual needs and preferences, and provide the necessary support and accommodations. By doing so, we can help them enjoy the summer while minimizing the challenges posed by the hot weather.
Remember to stay cool, stay hydrated, and have fun!