Thursday, September 17, 2009

What can be done about the weather?

If I were brave enough to go back through some of my old posts on this blog, I can imagine that I might be able to track some significant behavior issues and tie them in with the change of the seasons. We've had some rough moments in our little green house over the past few days. I hesitate to use the word rough though because in the scheme of things, the rough of today is just a blip on the radar compared to the rough of a few years ago. Last year we went through a particularly difficult period, in fact, at just about this time. The rough of today mostly looks like a super animated, can't sit still, coming out of his skin, Oliver.  He is still smiley and happy, cooperative and game to participate in whatever, but -- whew! I am tired just watching him.

Today we went to the library. It was rainy and colder than usual and I just wanted to get out of the house. Plus, we don't get any TV reception and our stock of library VHS tapes (yes, our DVD player died) was almost two weeks old and we were in need of some new reading material. When we arrived we found that the childrens area was completely occupied by a group of adults with disabilities and their aides. Great, I thought: what perfect timing. The librarians were so occupied with this group that they wouldn't notice a young boy galloping around the young readers area. Or so I thought. A few minutes after we arrived I stood next to the librarian to ask a quick question, she answered me then glanced at Oliver, looked back at me and said: "Autism?"  "Yes," I smiled. She smiled back so warmly that I quickly made a mental note to schedule all of our library visits for Thursday morning. Let's just say that some of the other librarians are not as warm.

We accomplished our mission at the library but it became increasingly clear to me that Oliver was sincerely struggling with some sensory issues. He galloped, he jumped, he hummed and at one point he even started flapping his hands -- something I have never seen him do before. Then, just as I was about to suggest that we leave, he ran up to a young, old order mennonite, woman and started hitting her. Not really hitting in an agressive way, but in a sensory seeking way that I've seen him do before. He takes both hands and claps them against part of a person's body so that the body is in between the clapping hands (strange picture, I know). Usually he does this to Sami's head!  I have never really seen him do it to another person outside the family before.

After I apologized profusely to the confused looking young woman, I took Oliver aside and explained that it was NOT ok to touch another person like that. Then I asked him if he wanted to hug me. He said yes and gave me a hug that might have killed a small child. So I whispered in his ear: "Do you want to go outside and walk around." "Yes," he answered, "Outside."  Then I asked him if he wanted to go home and he said "no," then repeated the word "outside." So we went and walked around, before finally collecting our things and heading home.  The nice part about this is that finally, finally, finally we are at a place were we can have some back and forth communication that helps us find resolve. Also, he is mostly regulated these days so disregulation stands out loud and clear.

We're also having some minor sleep issues -- not bad yet, but he is having trouble falling asleep and wakes up way too early. Overall it is manageable but not ideal. I'm crossing my fingers that it doesn't get any worse.

I know we aren't the only ones to note the change in season or weather and corresponding behavior changes in our kids with autism. The question is what to do about it? Besides the obvious sensory helping activities, is there anything to be done?

What do you do?


  1. Well, last week we had some cold rainy days here and I noted to myself once again the weather plus change of season will set Andrew off some. More sensory seeking as you said. But also, as you said, nowhere near how he would have handled this a year ago. But the gallop for sure.

    Anyway, we were also having some minor sleep issues which is so not the norm for him anymore. He was going to bed fine, but waking early.

    I just posted about his wonderful week in school today. And I noted how I have started to give him fish oil again. Something I had stopped for a while and I started his HANDLE exercises again. His teacher was ranting and raving about how fabulous he was working this week at school. Was it the fish oil and the HANDLE? I have no idea. The weather has been nicer this week too. But whatever it is, I hope it stays. And as I wrote it my post, it is my boy working hard and learning how to regulate himself more. He has been swinging on his swing very often these days.

  2. Ugh, we're dealing with out own version of the same thing here, too. In addition to the fact that Nik is sick again and has his SEVENTH ear infection since the beginning of June.

    Lots and lots of gross motor activity; he goes to the park twice each day with his daddy and climbs like a monkey. Daily bath time helps him calm down some, too. And music. Music seems to help him a lot.

  3. Anonymous12:16 AM

    You know, I've never noticed weather patterns affecting Charlotte. Now I'm going to pay attention. Maybe there is something to it.

    In general when she seems a little off I will increase the sensory activities and make them more routine, more often.