Transitioning between seasons can be tough for any child, but for children with sensory processing disorder (SPD), the arrival of winter can be particularly difficult. With a new season comes a whole slew of new feelings, each of which may be overwhelming and uncomfortable for anyone with a sensory integration dysfunction. Luckily, there are some steps that parents can take to minimize the seasonal transition. The following tips can help ensure kids with sensory issues feel as comfortable and secure as possible during the winter.
Dress in Soft Layers
Heavy coats tend to be uncomfortable for kids with SPD who are not used to wearing bulky outerwear. Instead of forcing a child to wear a large coat in the winter, parents can opt for dressing them in comfortable layers – t-shirts, long sleeve t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies. Parents should choose layers their child is comfortable in (such as soft, cotton clothes), and ones that he or she is used to wearing in other seasons. A child dressed in layers can also easily peel them off once inside.
Try Hand Warmers
If children absolutely refuse to wear gloves or mittens in the winter, parents should equip them with hand warmers that they can keep in the pockets of jackets and coats. Children can stick their hands in their pockets when they are feeling cold or uncomfortable, and they won't be saddled with any permanent itchy or unpleasant sensations on their hands.
Practice Before the Season Arrives
Children who live in an area requiring winter wear (coats, scarves, hats, etc.) will find it helpful to practice wearing these items for short periods before winter actually arrives. Parents can try putting kids in winter gear for a few minutes each morning to get them used to the feeling of the clothing, and then increase the amount of time spent practicing each morning as the season arrives. That way, children with SPD can get used to the clothing and won't find the necessity as traumatic come winter.
Use Lotion and Hydrate
Kids with sensory issues are ultra-sensitive to their physical feelings, and their skin can easily dry out and flake during winter. To help children avoid bothersome, itchy, dry skin during the winter, make sure to put lotion and chapstick on them regularly. Also, make sure they drink plenty of water so they can hydrate from the inside out.
Be Sure to Remove Tags
Winter gear can have tags in unexpected and easily overlooked places. Before dressing children in their winter gear, parents should search all items thoroughly for tags – inside and out – before they put the gear on their children with SPD.
Wash Clothing First
Before parents have their children wear their new winter clothing for the first time, they should run it through the washing machine – and use fabric softener. A good machine washing or two can loosen up and soften stiff and scratchy new clothing, so that it is more comfortable the first time a child puts it on.
Having a child with sensory processing disorder can be challenging, especially during a season like winter that requires dressing in bulky clothing. However, by doing a little early prep – and involving their child in the process – parents can ease the seasonal transition and make the season one that everyone can enjoy.