When you have a child who is learning to grow up with sensory processing disorder, you might be surprised to know that summer can be one of the most difficult times of the year. While much of the other three seasons is spent inside, most people prefer to be outside during the warmest months. That means parents will take their kids out and about as often as possible. This change in routine can be a real pain for kids with SPD.
Director of the Children’s Center Early Intervention and Family Support Jeff Johnson explains: “There are people talking, there are smells coming off the grill and their bare feet are touching the grass and the wind is whipping and the leaves are rustling and there’s a dog barking…All of that piled onto somebody with a generalized sensory input problem could put them over the edge.”
Different kids have different needs, as any parent of a child on the spectrum already knows. For example, some kids won’t like to be touched. A spray sunscreen can work wonders for those who don’t want to be lathered up. Then again, those who can’t stand the sound of a spray can will probably prefer it the old-fashioned way.
One crucial component of understanding how to help your kids with SPD make the most of the summer months involves communication. You need to go the extra mile to let them know that in most situations they can control how long they stay outside, what kind of activities they’re comfortable with, and how to say “no” to the ones they aren’t comfortable with.
There are other forms of entertainment available as well, and not all of them have to take place outside. Older kids might respond well to video games. Visual kids might do well with toys aimed at the fidgeters out there. Others might prefer an array of musical instruments to pass the time, and using these might even help them adapt to the discomfort of an outdoors environment in some situations.
Another issue with the outdoors is the temperature. Many kids are sensitive to heat. In other words, “excessive heat” means something completely different to them than it does to everyone else. Some might display a mild dislike for the sun, while others will actually start to develop symptoms that, in the worst cases, can even become life-threatening. Sensitivity isn’t always just in the head or the way the mind works. Sometimes it’s a literal physical intolerance, and that means heat stroke can come on more easily.
It’s best to make sure your kids know how to tell you when it gets to be just too much!