Twice a year we change our clocks to match Daylight Savings Time (DST). I grew up in Arizona and didn’t have to deal with such nonsense. As an adult with three children on the autism spectrum, DST is a time of the year where parents of special needs kids go on ultra-alert mode. Not only do we prepare our clocks for the upcoming change, but for the transition trauma that comes with it.
Individuals on the autism struggle with transitions–whether it’s from moving from one activity to another or one setting to another.
For the two weeks before and after the summer break my children will be grumpy, struggle to sleep, and extraordinarily picky eaters. Even short vacations can cause them to be overwhelmed as both interfere with a consistent set of routines.
When we change the time on every clock we own, we also prepare for meltdowns. We plan on missing church. Then, if we actually make it, let alone on time, Frank and I will give each other high fives. But, we’re also prepared for the likelihood that we’ll need to leave early.
Daylight Savings Time also impacts our chances for a good night’s sleep. A few years ago our pediatrician told us that Colin doesn’t require more than 6 hours of sleep. “Most autistic kids require less sleep than neurotypical children.”
Great. But what about their parents? We still need sleep. And, so do his brother and sister. A bouncy 10-year-old screaming with joy at his favorite Kindle show has been known to cause crankiness in remaining family members. This also means that the threat of physical brawls between siblings will exponentially increase.
Over the last eleven years, I have learned, that to survive DST, I should be more flexible with my children, read their body cues and react accordingly, and grow a lot more patience.
Then, when its all over, I hide in my room, listen to jazz, and savor a just reward (i.e. a treat from the closest French bakery).