Beat the Winter Woes

Brrr...Cold winter weather is likely to make most sensory sensitive children just that little bit more sensitive. This happens because the sensation of “cold” is sent to the brain along the same general nerve pathways as other “prickly” senses, such as pain and tickle. Feeling cold can also sometimes trigger anxiety and panic in children who are sensory sensitive. As our bodies experience the cold, the blood vessels in our extremities constrict - hands, feet, and noses - limiting blood flow to those areas and we may begin to shiver, jumping around restlessly as we attempt to warm up again. In this way, feeling cold can contribute immensely to the raised physical activity in children who are restless and “hyper”.

In spite of the cold weather, some children might refuse to pull on warm jerseys. These tactile defensive children dislike the feeling of certain textures on their skin and they may dislike the feeling of their skin being covered. These children surprise their parents and teachers by being scantily dressed on a cold day. Often all it takes to persuade them to try the comfort of warm clothing is to apply deep pressure to their arms and legs and to envelope those in a warm containing hug before encouraging them gently to pull on some warmer clothing. Stay with the child and reassure them for a few minutes once the clothing is on, to give their senses times to become accustomed to the feel of the clothing. They would otherwise be likely to simply peel off the warm jersey right away. Bear in mind that these children are also likely to become completely panicked if they struggle to remove a tight round-necked jersey or a hoodie, which does not pull easily over their heads. Be mindful of this fact when selecting clothing for your child and take the trouble to un-stitch and to open up any tight necklines. Tactile defensive children and sensory sensitive children don’t do polar necks or scratchy woollen textures. Avoid these types of clothing completely!

Winter is also the time for stuffy noses, colds, and flu. Encourage your child to blow his nose whenever it is stuffy, in order to clear all upper respiratory passages and to avoid stagnant mucous and fluid in the nasal sinuses and middle ear from becoming infected. As the child blows his nose, the fluid will be able to drain out of these passages more effectively. Teach your child to hold one nostril closed, at a time, while blowing. This will assist immensely in clearing the passages more effectively.

Clogged middle ear passages, also known as Glue Ear, can dampen your child’s hearing and can result in a temporary partial deafness, which can contribute immensely to a child’s concentration difficulties. The child’s levels of alertness become sharply reduced as his hearing is dampened. He also needs to work a lot harder to be able to follow instructions and to hear what is going on around him. He is unlikely to sustain this effort to listen in more acutely, and he will be inclined to simply switch off. In the case of babies and very young children, congested upper respiratory passages and middle ear passages can in fact hamper the development of their concentration ability. The Eustacean tube, which drains from the ear into the back of the throat, runs more horizontally in a younger child and this, explains why younger children are far more prone to middle ear congestion and infections (otitis media), than older children.

On the positive side, heavy blankets are more easily tolerated during the winter months, and it may be an easier time of the year to establish better sleeping patterns. Pull on the extra layers and make sure that your child is never cold at night. Wearing socks and onesies can be helpful. Heavy blankets and purpose-made weighted duvets and blankets can assist immensely in calming and organising the sensory sensitive or anxious child and can assist in improving the quality of their sleep with less night-time waking. Sensory Stuff has a range of smart weighted blanket solutions.