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How Does the Fall Time Change Affect Kids with Autism?

October 26, 2023

Time change can disrupt routines and sleep schedules, especially for children with autism. When our clocks “fall back” on November 5th, 2023, for instance, what can seem like a small change for many of us can significantly impact home care recipients, especially if your child has autism or other special needs.

Today’s blog covers some tips on explaining daylight savings time to a child. We'll also discuss how to maintain a healthy routine during the transition. By the end of this article, you'll know how to navigate this year’s time change with the right tools!

Explaining Daylight Savings Time to Kids

Most adults love the ideas of gaining an extra hour of sleep, but for kids, it can feel sudden. Follow these tips to help them understand what's happening:

  • Talk about the upcoming fall time change with your child about a week ahead of time. 
  • Explain that pretty soon, it will begin to get dark later in the day and that the timing of certain events (e.g., meals, going to school, naps, bedtime, etc.) might feel “off” for a little while. 
  • Assure them that you will help them get used to this change and that their core routines aren’t going to change. 

If it helps, you can use a social narrative to explain daylight savings time to your child. Walk them through when the clocks change and what that means for their day, and show them on a daily calendar what their routine will look like. 

Got a science-minded kid? Are they asking you WHY the clocks fall back? This article from the Sleep Foundation further explains the history and purpose of daylight savings time.

Creating a Healthy Routine to Minimize Disruption

To help your child adjust to the new sleep schedule, consider shifting bedtime to 10-15 minutes later, a couple of days before the clocks change.

  • For example, if bedtime usually is 8:00 p.m., keep your child up until 8:10 p.m. the first night, 8:20 p.m. the second night, etc., until they go to bed at 9:00 p.m. 
  • When the clocks shift, this will feel like the normal 8:00 p.m. bedtime.

If possible, you can shift other parts of your child’s daily schedule—such as wake times and meal times—just like bedtime. However, this may not be possible for kids in school or daycare.

If you’re shifting bedtime, you’ll probably have to be extra diligent about keeping your child busy during their bedtime routine to minimize over-tiredness and meltdowns.

Here's a few ideas:

  • Light exercises like bouncing on a trampoline or playing hide-and-seek can help keep them occupied.
  • You can also use light-blocking shades in your child’s bedroom so they aren’t as affected by the sun. 

Of course, children with autism often respond well to consistency. Do your best to maintain regular activities, schedules, and predictably timed events to ensure your child feels secure and accustomed to their routine.

A Final Note

During this transition period, patience, understanding, and frequent reassurances can keep your child’s anxiety at bay while fostering resilience and adaptability. Kids with autism can sometimes take longer to adjust, but rest assured that they will. 

Lastly, remember the importance of self-care for you, the caregiver. This transitional period can be taxing, requiring extra energy and patience. Ensure you, too, are:

  • Taking breaks
  • Keeping communication lines open with teachers and support
  • Practicing stress-reducing activities for your wellness

At Best Care, we acknowledge the unique challenges that caregivers face during daylight saving time, particularly those caring for children with autism. Therefore, we want to assure you that we’re here to help, answer any questions, and support you on the journey of family caregiving.

Check out our resources for more tips or contact us for questions!

Young child holding clock to symbolize time change.
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