Helping Special Needs Kids Adjust to the Time Change

The end of daylight saving time can be especially difficult for parents of special needs kids

By Carissa Garabedian, publisher of Macaroni Kid Richmond, Va. November 1, 2018

The end of daylight saving time is one of the most dreaded times of year for parents. The 2018 clock change happens Nov. 4. 

Time change is tough for kids (and their parents!), whether they have special needs or not. Moving the clock back one hour not only forces us to adjust our schedules, but it also forces our bodies to adapt to less daylight, which can cause depression, anxiety, and the desire to pull the covers back over your head (please, just 15 more minutes!).

For those of us who have kids with special needs, the effects of the time change can be even more pronounced. If your kids are struggling with the time change, here are five ideas to smooth the transition and which can be helpful to all kids, whether they have special needs or not: 

1. Prepare.

A week or so before the time change, talk to your child about it and explain that it will get darker earlier. Explain that it's a family "job" to adjust as much as possible before the actual time change by beginning to go to bed earlier by just 10 minutes or so each night to help our bodies adjust. 

2. Keep to the routine.

Keep routines as close to the same as you can. The first few nights after the time change, going to sleep might present some challenges, but keep your children as close to the routine that has been established as possible. If bathtime is 7:30 p.m., for instance, don't let them put it off just because it feels earlier. By keeping them on routine, you can shorten the time it takes them to adapt.

3. Exercise.

It doesn't have to be a formal exercise program, of course. Even a game of tag in the backyard or a family walk around the block can exert some energy -- which will hopefully mean your kiddos are a little more tired at bedtime.

4. Talk about it.

Explain the time change to them and how it affects our bodies. Tell them you know it might be hard at first, but their bodies will adjust. Tell them they are doing a good job with the time change. Praise is good for all of us! For kids with special needs, a social story, a tool used by parents of kids with autism, is a good way to walk the child through what they can expect.

5. Be patient.

Be patient with yourself, other members of your family, and your special needs child. No one is enjoying this! So remember to give everyone a break and to be kind to yourself, let go of what you can, and in a short time, this will all be behind us ... until spring!

Carissa Garabedian is the publisher of Know Different and mother to a special needs child in Richmond, Virginia. Carissa also publishes the award-winning Macaroni Kid Richmond, Va.