We’ve taken a vote and decided that the Monday after the Daylight Saving Time change should be a national holiday. Just kidding!
It would be nice to have that extra day to adjust to the new time, especially for families with children with ADHD, Autism, other processing, and behavioral issues. That one hour change can often throw off our kids’ systems for weeks and even cause a set back to steady progress. Changes in sleep patterns and routines affect everyone, with or without learning issues. However, there are some ways to help kids stay on track even when their bodies are telling them otherwise.
1. Stick to routines
Children with ADHD, Autism, and other learning differences are already struggling to understand the world around them. Adding an extra hour to the day can be difficult to process. We can help keep anxiety low by keeping to our regular routines and schedules. The less out of control your child feels, the easier the adjustment period will be for everyone.
2. Try shifting your child’s schedule by 10-15 minutes each day
Often letting a child know exactly what is about to happen is the best way to prepare for a new situation. Forwarding the day by a whole hour fits into the “new situations” category. About ten days before Daylight Saving Time Sunday sit down with your child and let them know that soon everyone will be forwarding their clocks forward and that as a family you will all be preparing for the time change. Children with ADHD and Autism are often visual learners. You can even make a chart or mark your calendar with the new wake-up and bedtimes to clearly show them how the time will change.
3. Light blocking shades
Too much light at bedtime can be a problem for kids with learning disabilities. Their internal clocks often use environmental cues such as sunlight or darkness to help them wake and sleep. Try using sun-blocking shades to keep out the light in the evening to help children fall asleep and to prevent them from waking up too early.
4. Extra exercise
Encourage your child to play outside or take them to the playground. Physical activity can improve sleep quality and increase sleep duration. Also, studies have shown that exercise reduces stress by increasing the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. The combined benefits of releasing pent up energy, and reducing stress can have a positive impact on helping your child adjust to time change.
5. Avoid extra stimulation in the evening, especially around bedtime
Help your child’s bedtime routine by avoiding rowdy games, electronic devices and any other activities that may energize your child and prevent them from falling asleep. Instead, encourage quiet games, reading, coloring, and other calming activities. Screens should be avoided. Artificial light from tablets and smart phones has been shown to interfere with the body’s natural sleep patterns and can slow down the production of melatonin, a chemical the body naturally produces to regulate sleep. Individuals with low melatonin levels will have difficulty sleeping at appropriate bedtimes.
Brainjogging can help your child adjust to Daylight Saving Time too! Make a wordlist using relevant words and short phrases to help your child understand what Daylight Saving is and how it will affect his day. You can add some of the ways that you plan on helping him adjust. Look out for our word list about Daylight Savings under “My Assigned Lists”. Most importantly, sticking to your set Brainjogging routine will help lower anxiety and stabilize any behavior issues that could arise.
Overall, it is important to be aware that the Daylight Saving Time change may affect your child’s sleep patterns and behavior. Be prepared, have a plan, and be patient!