SPD and Heat
Worldwide we are experiencing relentless heat waves, most notably affecting Europe, the Middle East, and in the Western States here in America. California has been scorching and it’s taking it’s toll on me and my family members with SPD.
Sensory Processing Disorder plus heat are not a good combination in my book. Don’t get me wrong, I love summer time. Swimming, sun dresses, no school, the beach, but man, my sensory processing disorder seems to get a thousand times worse when it’s hot out.
- My clothes feel tighter and more restricting.
- I’m drained easily.
- My car sickness is worse.
- And air conditioning makes me feel sick. It’s the going from hot to cold temperatures that’s hard on my sensory systems. Hot to cold again and again throughout the day is exhausting.
I asked pediatric occupational therapist Lindsey Biel about this and she noted that many kids with SPD actually do better in the summer time. Go figure, I’m the opposite!
Can’t Handle the Heat?
There’s a saying about if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. Exactly! We’re loading up on fruits and salads and have gotten take-out during these record temperatures. There’s no way I’m standing in front of a stove with my SPD and heating up my kitchen any more than necessary. Think Popsicles.
What About School?
Kids that are zapped by the sun and can’t think straight going from classroom to classroom all day, in-and-out of the sun and back into air-conditioning?
I had to write a note to one of my son’s teachers because he came home yesterday sun burnt from sitting in the sun DURING CLASS. He said he couldn’t even focus. He felt like he was melting.
While this is not the teacher’s fault, she can’t control the sun, I did request that she move him to another seat in the class away from the window. I’m sure she thinks I’m crazy and I’ll go in the annoying mom file, but really, it’s August and over 100 degrees today in Southern California.
I make sure he’s got water on him at all times. He can get woozy suddenly, so having water with him while it’s hot is a lifesaver. We freeze bottles that are 1/4 filled at night so he’s got a refreshing cool bottle all day.
PE. I could write endlessly about our issues with PE, but for now we are doing Independent Study. PE and a teen with autism, sensory processing issues, and anxiety, do not mix. He is fortunate to have enough outside exercise (signed off on and insured!) to be able to skip PE this year. No more running the mile in this dreadful heat. Hooray!
Growing up in Extreme Temperatures
Having spent much of my youth in Arizona, I can remember putting my head on my desk, being too hot to learn. Yes, we had air conditioning, but some days it just couldn’t get the class cool enough, especially after being outside during lunch or PE. I used to pass out at times, probably more from my blood sugar, but the heat definitely contributed. And I even vomited on occasion when having to run the mile.
When I was a young adult, I’d drive from Arizona to California throughout the year. Once, I drove at high noon and my fan belt melted. My dad had to come pick me up (he’s awesome like that), but I learned that I had to drive either in the early morning or through the night so that both my car would run smooth and I wouldn’t overheat.
Empathy when it’s Hot!
While it took me learning about sensory processing disorder to understand the effect the heat was having on me, I’m extra sympathetic to my son’s needs when it’s hot out. And I’m writing so other parents can notice if their child is depleted in the heat. Remember that we’re not all the same. Some kids love the sun and are energized by it, while others aren’t.
As you know, it can be hard to decipher between a sensory processing issue and a behavioral issue in the heat of the moment. So try and step back and observe when you can. If you see them slumping down, turning red, or having to sit down before an outburst, they may be sensitive to the heat and need more cool down breaks throughout the day.
If it’s just too hot, it’s okay to stay home or cancel plans. When the sun is blazing and the temperature is over 100, we will not be going to your outdoor picnic. Sorry, but it takes me too many days to recover. Help your kiddo stay cool. There’s tons of indoor alternatives to beat the heat and keep their sensory system happy.
Take it off. Like Nelly’s hit song says, “It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes!” My littlest one has been living in his diaper at home and my teenager in boxer shorts. Unless we’re going out, we’re keeping as cool as possible, without any layers weighing them down.
Headed to Disneyland in this heat?
Here are some tips to cool down at Disneyland this August. We know all the cool spots!
Got any tips on keeping cool during the school day?
Please share them here. We will all appreciate anything you’ve got.
Thanks for stopping by, Jackie Linder Olson