For kids with autism, shifting to Daylight Saving Time is time of angst

 

Shift to daylight saving time can mean weeks of adjustment

    Before third-grader Shellten Brown arrives at school, teachers at Viola Gibson Elementary in Cedar Rapids already have planned every minute of his day — from his morning routine to reading lessons to when he can go to the restroom.

    Sticking to a predictable schedule is a comfort for Shellten and many other children on the autism spectrum.

    The switch to daylight saving time — which began Sunday — can throw off that schedule, educators and pediatricians say.

    While the hour lost by springing ahead can be an inconvenience to many, it can take some of the estimated 3,100 children with autism spectrum disorders in Iowa weeks to adjust.

    “The largest group of kids that have difficulties dealing with the time change are kids with autism,” said Dr. Deborah Lin-Dyken, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. “Kids with autism can be very rigid with routines and schedules.”

    Children on the spectrum often respond to visual cues, she said. So they become used to going to sleep when it’s dark outside and waking up after the sun comes up. Moving the clock forward as summer nears breaks that patterns.

    That “mixes up their signals,” said Julia Hendred, an autism specialist for the Cedar Rapids Community School District. She works with about 40 students.

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