For children with special needs, structure in daily schedule is essential. A consistent routine allows them to know what to expect; it provides comfort and reduces anxiety. Special needs children, who are more sensitive and easily affected, often react to changes that others may not even notice.
I always liked it when my family could get into a solid routine. Life seemed to flow more smoothly, especially for Gracie, but for the rest of us as well.
When my children were young, I thought that the school year afforded them consistency and predictability. It took a while to realize that school routines rarely last longer than a few weeks at most. There’s always something: holidays, snow days, sick days, testing weeks, teacher absences, school parties, guest speakers, etc. Many of these changes in routine are both unavoidable and necessary.
But then there is Daylight Saving Time
Twice a year, everyone’s routine is thrown off for an entire week by Daylight Saving Time. These two weeks, more than any other, drive me crazy. That’s because, in my mind, they are unnecessary.
Change the time by one hour twice a year. Fall back, spring forward. I once thought it had to do with farming needs, and perhaps that’s how it started. More recently I’m under the impression that energy conservation is the rationalization.
Really? Is it worth it, or are we just deluding ourselves? These days we don’t cancel activities because it’s dark outside—we turn on the lights. Is Daylight Saving Time a dinosaur from a world gone by?
So what’s the big deal?
It’s one hour, twice a year. But who’s kidding whom? Our bodies are biological marvels, coded and conditioned to be attuned to nature since the beginnings of time. Our bodies don’t understand when we decide to arbitrarily change the clock.
So what happens?
We all feel a little “off” during the adjustment period. Out of sorts. Tired. Sensitive kids feel it more intensely. Much more.
Tiredness leads to more difficulty in managing emotions. We become susceptible to irritability, anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, and—one of my favorite words—catastrophizing.
Now multiply that several times
When a family has more than one child, especially more than one who is sensitive, the effect is multiplied. Then add in parents who are also coping with time change.
It’s a perfect setup, twice every year, for a difficult week. And our family had enough difficult weeks without having more imposed upon us by an artificial calendar.
Over the years, I noticed a pattern in my family. The first day or so after the time change, life would be pretty much okay. But by mid-week, we would all be showing its effects with irritability, tears, outbursts, or just feeling unsettled. I tried to offset this by keeping activities that week to a minimum and making sure we all got enough sleep. That helped a little.
I don’t believe my family’s reaction was unique. I suspect many families have additional challenges the week after a time change, but it isn’t often discussed. Or, maybe the correlation isn’t obvious to busy parents.
How about you?
Is the time change hard for you or your family? Is it one more stressor?
More importantly, is it a necessary stressor?
Right now, 48 states participate in Daylight Saving Time. Arizona and Hawaii are the only states that do not.
I think it’s time for a change
If Daylight Savings Time makes you see red—especially when your overtired child is having a temper tantrum over something he or she might normally be able to roll with, or you find yourself unreasonably fatigued—fill out this petition to Congress to end Daylight Saving Time. It only takes a moment to complete.
Who knows? If enough of us participate, maybe the government will end this archaic practice. Then, families of special needs children can enjoy two extra weeks each year of more stability and peace.