Summer. It can be a brilliant time of relaxation, fun trips and family gatherings. But for those with Sensory Processing Difficulties, it can also be a time of huge discomfort.
Weather changes with the changing seasons bring about changes to our daily lives. These can seem small or even welcomed by some. Summer clothing, sand between your toes, the smell of suncream. But people with sensory processing difficulties can dread these simple and uncontrollable changes.
I first realised that my Sensory Processing Difficulties are affected by the seasons when I was trying to fall asleep one night a few summers ago. All I could hear was this high pitched buzzing around my bedroom. It was so quiet and so high pitched that none of my family could hear it and didn’t see what the fuss was about. I spent hours figuring unable to sleep and trying to figure out where this was coming from. It was late at night when I realised there we several tiny gnats in my room making this buzzing noise. I’ve had to deal with this most summer nights ever since!
But tiny, annoying gnats are only one of the many new things we have to learn to process in summer. Here are some ways to make summer sensory friendly!
1. Summer Clothing
Most people welcome the chance to wear summer clothes that have been in the wardrobe for months! But for some people with SPD, this can be really intimidating. Summer clothes fit different, expose different parts of the body and often come in bright patterns and colours. All of this can make shifting from comfy winter clothes really difficult.
Katy’s Top Tip: Don’t wait until it gets warm to go shopping for summer clothes! Take the time all year round to find things that you (or someone you care for) will be comfortable in when summer comes. This way you have plenty of time to find out what you like and what doesn’t work for you before you need to start wearing summer clothing.
2. Sun Cream
Now, there probably aren’t many people who enjoy putting on suncream but especially not in the Sensory Community! This is an essential part of summer for most of us and both the smell and texture can cause some problems. Not to mention the act of having to have help putting it on causing another person to be touching your skin.
Katy’s Top Tip: Try several types of suncream. In my experience, the ones that come in spray bottles or aerosol cans are more tolerable than ones that come in lotion form. It’s especially important to look out for a suncream that’s specifically designed for use on the face. Putting traditional suncream on your face is never going to be a comfortable experience!
3. Night Disruption
We’ve all been there. Summer nights that mean getting little sleep and getting very frustrated about it! Not only can the heat pose a problem but the fact that the nights are shorter and it doesn’t go dark until later can also be a factor to consider. When I was younger, I remember my parents closing my curtains and then hanging large blankets from my curtain rail to shut out the light! Having to wear different pyjamas or finding other methods to keep cool can cause lots of sensory issues. Also, those pesky gnats!
Katy’s Top Tip: Everyone’s sleeping habits are different so think about what you need personally. Some people need complete silence to fall asleep but I personally love having white noise. So having a fan on all night is actually brilliant for me as it keeps me cool and gets me to sleep faster. Try grabbing a wet face cloth before bed and dabbing it on your forehead, behind your neck, arms and legs. Then let the wet spots air dry to get you feeling cooler and refreshed before bed.
4. Busier Public Places
Summer is a great time to spend time with the family. But it can be hard when every other family in the UK also has the same goal! When school term finishes and people take time off work, public places can become more crowded. Your local supermarket can suddenly become much busier at the time you usually shop because it’s quiet. This can throw out your daily routine and make everyday tasks a little harder for the senses.
Katy’s Top Tip: I find that the earlier in the day you get out to do your shopping, the better! Or even better than this, you can online shop for the summer weeks whilst it’s hotter and busier. Try planning ahead with any family activities you’d like to do and if you’re headed to facilities like a museum, theme park or aquarium, you can ring up and ask which times are the quietest.
5. Meal Times
That’s right! Even meal times can be affected by the seasons. This can have a knock-on effect and prove challenging for those who have sensory processing difficulties around food. Summer weather can affect our appetite and can mean we eat less or at different times in the day than usual.
Katy’s Top Tip: Try reducing portion size or finding meals that are slightly less filling. This way you can avoid any discomfort from having a big meal in the heat. Be sure to also listen to your body (if you can!). Try not to force yourself to eat or finish a meal if you’re not hungry. It’s also important to stay hydrated and drink lots of water!
Summer really can be a challenge for our senses. But that shouldn’t mean we can’t enjoy this lovely time of year with our loved ones. We hope you enjoyed our tips on how to make summer sensory friendly. Be sure to let us know all of your Summer Sensory tips over on the Chewigem Sensory Support Facebook Page!
For more sensory tips, check out this podcast: