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Snow Days and Sensory Issues

Jennifer Arnold by Jennifer Arnold Additional Needs

Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold

I’m passionate about raising awareness about disability issues through education and outreach. When I’m not wearing my writer hat, I’m usually tryi...

Snow Days and Sensory Issues

Earlier this month, we got a snowstorm.

Not a big deal for most of the country, but in our little corner of Northern California, it’s almost unheard of.

It rarely snows in the wintertime here, and if it does, it usually changes to rain before any snow has a chance to accumulate.

This time we got a full 8 inches of snow, and while my three boys were more than happy to go outside and play in it, my daughter wanted nothing to do with it.

She’s 14, on the autism spectrum, and has many sensory issues.

She lasted about five minutes outside, and most of that five minutes were spent trying to get fresh snowflakes off of her mittens.

She also wasn’t digging the way the snow felt when she tried to walk in it.

She walked over it like she was walking on hot coals, even though she had boots on.

No amount of coaxing offers to build a snow fort-not even comparisons of the wintery scene to one of her favorite movies- Frozen- could change her mind.

She couldn’t get back inside fast enough.

Aside from the sensory stuff, she was a little jarred about how different everything looked, covered under a blanket of snow.

She kept pointing out the window, and I reassured her that it would start to melt when the sun came out.

I didn’t even think about snow being a challenge for her before this snowstorm because it’s not something we have to deal with very often.

I never realized how many sensory challenges come along with winter weather.

I grew up in New England, where snow was a regular occurrence, and I remember all the layers of clothes, the itchy wool hats, and the heavy boots lined with plastic bags so our feet would stay dry.

The scarves covering half of our faces and the bulky gloves and mittens we wore that inevitably would get soaked within ten minutes of playing outside.

I can see now how any of those would be a nightmare for a kid with sensory processing issues, so I went online and searched for some tips to make snow days more enjoyable for kids with sensory issues.

I found some good ideas such as:

Letting your child pick out some winter clothes, and get them used to wearing them before winter actually hits.

Check out online stores that specialize in sensory-friendly clothing.

Help prepare them by reading lots of stories about winter activities.

Before the snow melted, I was able to implement one suggestion of inside sensory play with snow. I scooped some up in a bowl and let her play with it at the table.

She played with it until it started to melt, which I’m considering a win!

Now, hopefully, it won’t be several years before we see some good snow again!


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