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Snow for the Senses

October 29, 2011

Snow has healing powers for those with autism. I’m not sure if anyone has ever studied this, but having three autistic children, I have seen it. It is snowing this morning. It’s not even Halloween yet, but it is snowing. My older children were out playing in the snow early this morning. Bundling them up in their snow pants, I laughed at how excited they were. They raced out there, eager to run their fingers over the snow-covered railings of our back porch. My daughter took her mittens off and reveled in how ice-cold the snow was. She’s one of those sensory kids who loves to chew on ice-cubes, so you can imagine how much she loves the snow! The fresh coating of snow seems to mute all the other noises of the world. The snow blankets everything with white, somehow calming the senses. The exhilaration of sledding down the hill fulfills the needs of my motion-seekers. Then, eventually, they return to the warmth of the house, stripping off their layers, and curl up under warm blankets, happily exhausted.

I took Mary outside to see the snow. The big fluffy flakes landed on her glasses and she stretched out her tiny little fingers to touch the piles of snow on the fence posts. Isn’t it amazing how calming and exhilarating something as simple as snow can be! She almost seemed like she was paying attention while I signed snow with her, my hands over hers, showing the flakes drifting down. She was right with me. For just a few minutes, she was really taking it all in, with me.

When it really starts snowing, I can send my son outside to shovel. This is so vital in the winter. Not just because we need to shovel out, but because it is “heavy work” for my boy. It expends so much of his extra energy in an organized and productive way. When he has worn himself out this way, he is so thoughtful and peaceful the rest of the day. Like so many autism moms, I have steered away from any medications for my children, relying instead on sensory stimulation. Snow makes it so easy to do that, without having to set much up. It’s messy play, compression (the snow suits), heavy work, vestibular activity (sledding), visual stimulation, and it reduces the excess background noise of their environment.

We don’t complain about snow in this house.  I often find myself mourning its passing in the spring, though I love the newness of that season as well. How wonderful that we find winter coming to us just a little early this year. Maybe it’s a sign of good things to come. Happy Halloween!

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