It’s likely that when daylight saving time was implemented in the early 1900s, the difficulties that time changes create for people with autism were not considered. Many individuals on the autism spectrum deeply value routines. As a result, adjusting to changes can be difficult and can cause people to feel out of control of their environment.
Daylight saving time changes can be especially tough for children. Younger children are still developing routine sleep patterns and habits. And kids with autism may need days, weeks, or even months to adjust to a change in the time of day.
Typically, the biggest challenge for kids on the spectrum is centered on how long it stays light after the time changes. For a child with autism, it can be very disorienting when it begins to stay lighter and they don’t feel tired at the regular time.
Tips for Managing the Time Change:
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- Prepare for the time change by talking about it—what day it's going to happen on and what to expect. For example, explain that it will begin to get dark later (e.g., at dinnertime, while the child is watching cartoons, etc.).
- Create a social story with which to walk your child through what to expect from the time change. Include references to daily places and specific objects in your child’s life.
- A week before the actual time change, start shifting your child's bedtime. Ten- to fifteen-minute increments can be helpful, resulting in the full hour adjustment by the time the clocks change.
- Studies have shown that exercise can aid the body in adjusting to a new schedule.
- Keep your child busy so that he or she tires by bedtime.