These past few weeks I’ve had a sensory comfort zone the size of a postage stamp. There are a few things playing into my increase in sensory sensitivities* and one of them is definitely the change of seasons. Transitioning from summer to winter or vice versa is surprisingly demanding.
I think the biggest factor is the constant sensory adaptation. During the winter and summer, the days are pretty consistent from one to the next. It might be uncomfortably hot or cold, but at least my body knows what to expect each day and dressing appropriately doesn’t require a lot of forethought.
Spring and fall, on the other hand, are filled with unpredictable days. Yesterday was t-shirt weather. Today I have on sweats and a thermal shirt. Three days ago I left all of the windows open overnight because it was uncomfortably warm in the house. This morning I dashed out of bed to close the kitchen window, which was open two inches and letting a cold draft in.
With each temperature fluctuation, I find my body struggling to adapt. Too hot. Too cold. Over dressed. Underdressed. It’s hard to find that sweet spot–a consistent, comfortable environmental and body temperature. For the average person, this probably isn’t a big deal. I imagine things like dressing in layers and putting on or taking off clothing as needed is a good solution.
The problem with that strategy is that thanks to wonky interoception I often don’t notice when I’m too hot or too cold until it reaches a level of mild to moderate physical distress. At that point, doing something about it requires not just taking off or putting on a layer, but lowering or raising my body temperature to a comfortable level again. Simply putting on a sweater isn’t a complete solution to whole-body shivering.
Spring and fall bring many days in a row where the temperature is putting a lot of demands on my sensory system and eventually I think that just makes my senses feel ragged and raw.
Add that to having to adapt to a “new” set of clothes for the new season and suddenly everything feels scratchy or tight or just plain weird. For the past two weeks, each time I wear my oldest, softest pair of jeans, I find myself wondering what the heck is that annoying scratchy thing in the waistband? Every time it turns out to be the same soft worn tag that’s been there for all of the years (5 years? 7?) I’ve owned those jeans. It’s never bothered me before, even when they were new, but suddenly I can’t stand the feel of it.
There are other issues with switching to a different set of clothes too. The change in routine requires a mental shift–instead of the set of shorts and t-shirts I’ve grown used to choosing from all summer, I now have to decide which of my long-sleeved shirts and long pants I still like and find comfortable.
If my body shape has changed since the previous year, that will complicate things further, making previously comfortable pants too tight or too loose. Last summer I found that all of my shorts were too big and ended up wearing pants well into June before I found a couple of new pairs of shorts that I liked. Then, of course, I wore one of those two pairs every day until it was too cold.
Having to decide what clothes to put on the morning shouldn’t be as hard as all this, but it is and who wants to waste spoons on agonizing over what to wear? Routines and habits around dressing conserve resources and make it easier to get started with the day.
Another sensory drain during this time of year is adjusting to the feel of “new” clothes. After spending all summer with bare arms and legs, in looser fitting clothing, winter clothes can feel heavy and restrictive. Too many layers. Tight waistbands. Sweaty gloves and lumpy winter hats. Socks.
The weird thing is that when next summer rolls around, I’ll find it hard to give up my comfortably heavy hoodies, thick warm socks and sturdy hiking boots for bare feet and t-shirts. It isn’t the clothes themselves that are the problem, it’s the transition from one kind of sensory input to another.
All of this, the physical discomfort and disruption of routines and all the rest, exists as background static. It took me weeks of sensing that something was “off” to pin down that the something was my sensory system and then yet more time to realize that I needed to actively do something about it.
Coping Strategies Anyone?
I’d love to say that I’ve found some great solutions for making seasonal transitions easier, but mostly I’ve just spent a lot of time whining about it to The Scientist.
We do have a season changing ritual where we take out the bins with the clothes for the upcoming season just as the weather starts to change. Having appropriate clothes handy makes it easier to dress for the fluctuating temperatures and arranging everything in my drawers reminds me that there are some clothes I’ve missed wearing. I’ve been especially looking forward to cool evenings when I can wear my super heavyweight hoodie for dog walking.
I’ve also been working on paying attention to the thermometer more. If the weather forecast on my phone tells me that it’s going to be in the 40s overnight, I know that I need to close the windows before going to bed. If it’s in the 50s in the morning, a long sleeve shirt and jacket are a safe choice. Going by the thermometer is a more reliable system than going by how the ambient temperature feels or how I think it should feel based on the date (most ridiculous system ever, I know).
Being extra conscious about fulfilling my sensory needs helps to smooth out some of the rough edges. I’ve been using my weighted blanket a lot and doing other things that provide positive sensory inputs.
The other useful strategy has been recognizing that my sensory comfort zone is very small right now and sticking to my most comfortable clothes. That way I’m not causing an unnecessary drain on my already maxed out sensory resources.
If you have strategies that you use to cope with seasonal change or increased sensory sensitivities, I’d love to hear them. I’m sure The Scientist would appreciate them too. He’s probably tired of all the complaining.
*In part, I think it’s also related to an unwelcome resurgence in perimenopause symptoms. The summer was wonderfully dormant in that area and I’d gotten tricked into thinking maybe the worst was past, but clearly my doctor was right. There’s an ebb and flow to this menopause thing and it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
94 thoughts on “Changing Seasons and Sensory Sensitivities”
I have a very limited wardrobe (I am Male and I do not wear shorts unless engaged in sport) and it is the same spring, summer, winter, fall. being in the UK we do not have the weather extremes but for me it is boots or shoes, long socks, trousers, T shirt, and if it gets cold a coat.
Thats it for me. But I do get very hot and very cold sometimes.
Certainly not a solution, just easy.
I envy your lack of weather extremes! It sounds like it makes it easier, but there are still times when you’ll be uncomfortable too.
I can be uncomfortable but for the most part it does not bother me too much. I am thinking my tolerance to most conditions may stem from my spending a significant number of years only having a motorcycle as a means of transport and also working as a motorcycle courier for about 8 years.
I never look or need to look at the weather forecast.
This explains much.
Make no mistake, I love the spring and the fall, but the frequent variations in the weather that time of the year is hard on me. The seasons around the equinoxes are when I tend to get the most migraines, for instance. I am also very particular about my clothing. I prefer to wear only natural fibers, yet even still there are times when I don’t like things touching me. I recently received my diagnosis, and now these sensitivities all make sense.
I love spring and fall too. There are so many days where the weather feels just perfect.
I hadn’t thought about how the change of seasons might affect migraines. It’s interesting that you’ve found a pattern that coordinates with the equinoxes.
I pay attention to the weather forecast on my weather app. I refer to it everyday and sometimes in the evenings. This helps me make a mental map of incoming weather. I also recognize that I will need to acclimate to our new season. The best way for me to do that is to be out in the weather rather than huddled in my house where the temp doesn’t change much. I make it a priority to either go to the store or go for a walk and be back before 10am, when my 9 month old needs a nap. My older kids get exercise and I get some sensory awareness.
When I come across those days when I am surprised by the temperature and it’s cold and I can’t watm up, I have an electric heating blanket that is lap sized (40×40). I might also use a heating pad on my back to warm me up.
As for a quick cool down, shower. My mom used to take 3 or 4 showers a day when it was hot. It’s great at cooling you off in a hurry. I tend to only do that if I’m overly sweaty.
Hope this is helpful.
Those are great suggestions. I think I’ll look into getting a heating pad for chilly days.
I’m out every morning and evening with my dog so I get a pretty good sense of the climate but often those first few steps out of the house are a shock to the system (especially on cold mornings).
… I have the same aggrevations! I LOVE the fall & spring bc I can still enjoy fires in the big stone firepit my daughter & I built together – but I always commented on what to wear – how to dress – I noticed others never seem as stymied as me – my daughters always just said I had to complain about everything – I realize now, NTs don’t think about these things like I do. If everyone thought about clothes like I do, no itchy, ill-fitting garments of any kind would ever be made in the first place.
Since I work outside a lot, in winter I have to wear layers of clothes … if the day warms I peel out of tops – I always take an extra coat in case it gets windy-colder, or rains.
Since I have been in menopause for last 3 years, my strategies don’t work.
Apparently there are no strategies for this era of my life – except to keep a suitcase packed with year-round wear. I also wish I could mount a fan to my head, with an extendable arm & an on/off switch bc one minute my face is hot the next freezing. Do you have a specific commentary on menopause in Aspergers? Its also kinda like the higher pain threshold we tend to have (I’ve got to send you a thing I wrote about that) From the conversations I’ve had with other women my age – I seem to be breezing thru this thing without the extreems, OR I can just ignore better …
Thanx for this topic!
Menopause, yes. My commentary runs toward argh and some unprintable swears. 😀
I’m still trying to find things that work. I don’t have daytime hot flashes, which sounds like a blessing, but I’ve been treated to terrible night sweats instead. Have you tried vitamin E to help with your temperature fluctuations? It seems to at least lessen the severity/frequency for me.
The mood swings and fatigue were bad for a while, but both have calmed down quite a bit since I cut way back on sugar and carbs. I don’t seem to have the forgetfulness that other women have or I’m just so used to having a poor short term memory that, like you said, I don’t notice.
I have a feeling that it will be hard to say much about perimenopause in general until I’m past it and can look back from a vantage point of being more myself again, if that makes sense. Sometimes it’s hard to judge how much something is affecting you until it’s not anymore.
It’s great that you’ve been mostly free of the extremes. I’ve heard other women on the spectrum describe widely varied experiences so it seems like it’s a bit different for everyone.
I wonder if my son’s going through some of this. He’s a sensory seeker and I don’t think he has sensitivities (he hasn’t let me know), but I’m going to seek if perhaps it is getting to him. He’s been able to sleep fine with his weighted blanket until October – then boom – wakes up at least once around 4am (sigh). And he’s grown a bit over the last couple of months. I’m adjusting his weighted blanket but not sure what else to do. If anyone has any thoughts on how to help him adjust, I’d love your input! He’s verbal, may have some interoception/proprioception issues (mild), and only started sleeping through the night last year with the weighted blanket (at around 6.5 years old) – he’s 7.5 now.
That’s really interesting because I’ve been waking up at 4 the past few weeks (probably going back into September) and most of the time I’m up for the day. I wonder if it has to do with the length of the days changing so noticeably?
I’ve also noticed that my sleep is cyclical and I’ll go through weeks of shift sleeping, then weeks of sleeping through the night but waking very early then a few days (not weeks, sadly) of sleeping really well then back to shift sleeping.
Does your son mind being up early? Is he able to amuse himself until he falls back asleep? Most people on the spectrum seem to have disrupted sleep schedules and his waking up during the night or very early may be something that come and goes throughout his life. Rather than focusing too much on getting him to sleep straight through, it might be better to help him learn to take waking up during the night as a normal thing for him and practicing how to do something quiet in bed until he either falls back asleep or it’s time to get up for the day.
I have wrote about some suggestions for sleeping better in general – maybe there will be something in the list at the end of the post that will help: https://musingsofanaspie.com/2012/11/29/wide-awake-autism-insomnia-and-me/
I remember when my son (who has a diagnosis of high functioning Aspergers) was having sensory issues at a young age. He refused to wear his clothes loose. Shirts had to fit exact; they couldn’t be too big at all. His is now 20 years old and still have those same issues. I don’t have to worry about sagging pants LOL! Now I am currently being evaluated for Autism (specifically Aspergers). I was just talking to my husband about how I get overstimulated at gatherings. It’s been a little difficult for him to understanding because he is seeing me from the outside. I told him his has to understand how I am feeling on the inside and how I fight with myself to appear as if nothing is wrong. Now that I am older I am finding that I am more inclined to not fight and refuse to go places because I am tired of trying to suppress those feelings and my anxiety.
“Now that I am older I am finding that I am more inclined to not fight and refuse to go places because I am tired of trying to suppress those feelings and my anxiety.”
I know this feeling well. 🙂 It’s funny how many people have said that reaching this point in life lead to them seeking out a diagnosis and making changes in their life as a result. Hopefully if you continue to talk about it, your husband will begin to understand. I know that my husband struggled a bit at first because he assumed that he knew me and that was that. But like you said, he knew me from the outside and wasn’t aware of all the stuff I’d been struggling to suppress and manage all those years.
Yep, know that feeling! I’ve got to the point when I think ‘I don’t particularly enjoy doing that, I’d rather be doing something else, so I’m going to do what I want to do and not what society says I should be doing’. It’s so much less stressful and given the number of stressful occasions in life anyway why not reduce them when you can?!
Yes to this! Over the weekend my daughter talked me into taking a “stress” questionnaire and when she got to the question about how often I “do things that make you so anxious you can’t wait for them to be over” my answer was “I rarely put myself in that situation anymore.” That felt so good to say.:-)
I think this is what’s made it so difficult for my sister to accept my diagnosis. She’s seen me as this very capable person who is friendly and can socialize, but has no idea the strain it’s been to maintain that all these years. Also, when I hit a wall, which happens more frequently now that I’m willing to acknowledge my limits, I’m not around her, I’m at home, hiding from everyone. She’s never seen me at my worst.
I’m also perimenopausal. I didn’t realize that might be making things worse. This is a huge relief because I’ve been having memory issues; leaving the gas stve on or food cooking, forgetting to lock up the chickens at night, etc. I though maybe I was getting dementia.
This is my son exactly and reading this from you makes me understand it all so much better.
I always tell his teachers to expect a big change in behaviors in October and March. We’ve done a few things to help with the season changes, especially around clothing. He wears compression shorts and shirts to minimize the feeling of long pants and shirts. Every once in a while he will “practice” wearing the change of clothes for five to ten minutes at a time to acclimate himself to the feeling. And I try to keep the house at a consistent temp at night all year round so there’s no change in pajamas or blankets on the bed (it does cost more in the middle of summer to keep it cool or warm in the winter but it’s been worth it).
The best thing we’ve done lately though is just what you said – having him understand what’s going on so he can figure out why he feels the way he does. Thank you for sharing your experience so I can better understand it all.
Practicing wearing clothes for a short time is a great idea! I hope other parents will see your suggestions here because they sound like great ways of supporting a child in identifying and managing their sensory sensitivities.
In England, this is less of a problem, because our weather is notoriously unreliable, so we can have cold, wet and dismal days even in the middle of August – although, like you, I do tend to dress for what I think the weather *should* be doing, rather than what it is doing.
My big transition nightmare is footwear, because I really hate having to be enclosed in socks and shoes after a summer of sandals, flip flops or bare feet. I have enough problems with socks at the best of times, but autumn is particularly painful.
One thing I have noticed, though, is that it’s less of a problem since I started horse riding. I think the fact that once a week through the summer I have to wear jodphurs, socks and boots has somehow trained my brain to accept long trousers, socks and shoes a bit more easily when autumn comes round. I don’t know how hot it gets where you are, but if you could bear to put on your autumn clothes even for a couple of hours per week, that might help. (Or it might just give you two hours of hell every week of the summer, I don’t know…).
As an aside, if you have sock issues, I have found that it’s well worth investing in really good quality socks. Now I only wear one brand of hiking socks (I have pairs of different weights for different seasons), and it has made a massive difference to me. They fit well, there are no seams, I don’t put my toes through them and they exert just the right amount of pressure for me. It’s pricey, but completely worth it.
I’ve gone through so many different kinds of socks. It seems like the ones that fit well (soft cotton sports socks) wear out really quickly, though they’re inexpensive so that’s not a big concern. I do have some really nice hiking socks. I should make an effort to wear them more often. 🙂
That’s a great point about putting on “out of season” clothes occasionally as a way of keeping in touch with how they feel. I love all the creative suggestions everyone is offering.
I hate having to get a new pair of shoes, any shoes. Trying to find a pair that fits just right and doesn’t rub, isn’t too heavy…. When I find a pair that is right I wear them until they go into holes on the bottom. (And then it takes a while to give them up).
And I detest socks that cling too much. I’ve finally worked out that if I don’t stick my socks in the tumble drier they’ll not do that horrible shrinky thing and so I can wear them again. I love new socks. Love them, love them, love them. I could get excited about receiving socks as a gift.
Thank you for writing this! I was checking every day for it:)
I am the exact same way and I am thirty so I don’t think its menopause although I DO think that could make it worse for you ( le dread!) But for me I get DEPRESSED with it too because one moment I am up and happy and grateful because this really is my favourite season, but the next minute I feel uncomfortable, cold, and the sun goes down at 6 (I live in Northern-ish Canada) and I feel like I didn’t have my day…that is the one thing I would add to your post…The darkness change if you live in the north…I feel like my day just started and then it is dark…as opposed to summer when it doesn’t get dark till 11. That’s a huge jump and now I find myself needing bed at 7:00 but yet I don’t want to be in bed! But it’s dark and feels like 11!
I am not coping with it well AT ALL. i have no strategies other than the ones you said…Even the very NT people I know are struggling right now! Going out helps sometimes because sometimes I hide in my house in shorts and then I am shocked when I go out! Other than that I have no ideas…
It’s been a busy week or it would have been up sooner. 🙂
I think menopause has in general worsened everything by gobbling up sensory spoons. I spend my nights alternating between dripping sweat and shivering. It’s lovely.
The darkness (and in contrast the long summer days) where you are sounds like a big factor. It’s not quite as extreme here, but there is a noticeable change happening this time of year. It’s getting dark by 6 PM now.
There have been some good suggestions in the comments, though not any relating to the shortening days. Have you looked into getting one of those S.A.D. lights to use during the winter? Perhaps some additional artificial light exposure would help.
*violently crashes through your ceiling* Did somebody say “weather and sensory issues”?! LET ME EXPLAIN YOU A THING *takes a deep breath*
Seriously though, this is REALLY interesting, because it’s made me realise I’m coming at it from a totally different standpoint – for me, of the two extremes, one of them is no big deal whereas the other is To Be Avoided At All Costs (for those of you who I haven’t endlessly whined at on the subject before, heat’s the awful one) so when it comes to the uncertain times of the year, I know for definite that I’m going to err on the side of under-dressing. Being a little too cold is (literally) the opposite of a problem!
So, in spring, my main reaction is to panic and decide it’s summer, and then when I realise it isn’t, for a few days I’m still apprehensive about going back to acting like it’s winter. I get vaguely used to it eventually, though. Then May is bad, June is worse, July is hell, August is comparatively actually alright for some reason, September is mainly spent wondering why the heck it’s still affecting me, and by this time of year I’m vaguely smug about the fact that 90% of the people around me are complaining about the cold. I still haven’t gone back to wearing an actual coat, although I think that time might come soon! In spring and autumn, I do often go by the weather forecast, though I don’t check it as frequently/obsessively as I do in summer.
This might be going off at a tangent slightly, but something else I’ve had to deal with this year is being in a big city with an underground train system, which obviously can get pretty warm, but it’s cold enough outside for me to wear a jacket. My solution to this so far is basically that I’ve mastered the art of taking my jacket off from underneath my bag whilst walking from the ticketed entrance to the metro… there may potentially be a less complicated solution, but I haven’t found it yet 😛 That’s probably my closest equivalent to the situation you’ve described in your post, to be honest. I live in T-shirts and (until summer comes along and ruins everything) jeans. If I’m not going outside (so I don’t need a jacket), layers are just not a thing.
Incidentally, the whole concept of a menopause sounds terrifying.
I had a feeling you might relate to this one. 😀
It sounds like your body generally runs hot? I would be shivering half the year if I wore a t-shirt year round. In fact, I think I tend toward the opposite end of the scale and am much more prone to be cold. My husband is always the first one to want to put on the air conditioner (when we’ve had one) in the summer and I’ll be first to turn it off because the house will feel much too cold once it gets below 75 degrees.
Menopause . . it’s an adventure. I won’t miss it a bit when it’s gone, that’s for sure.
“Menopause… it’s an adventure” reminds me of a Tumblr audio post which I now can’t find! (and yes, I resorted to making a text post asking people to send me the link, so I’ll let you know if I hear anything)
But yeah, I think you’re right. My (neurotypical) best friend has the opposite problem; last year she lived in the room directly above me at uni, and it became a running joke that these very close rooms were in fact entirely different microclimates.
If you find it, definitely post a link. 🙂
Overheated buses and buildings are a nightmare for me. I can wrap up warm if I need to in winter but I can’t cope with the sudden transition to heat. Often places are hotter inside in winter than outside in summer. I have to keep pulling off layers but can’t really judge what’s appropriate. It makes me miserable.
“Overheated buses and buildings-” *immediate instinctive cringe*
Low daylight hours bother me more than temperature, I think. December is a really hard month for me as I get depressed – I used to think I was just being a Grinch as Xmas and my birthday fall in December and I find it very hard to enjoy either, but I think it is daylight hours. I try to make sure I get out in the middle of the day and get some daylight, this seemed to help last year.
My other weather related problem, which may also be a feature of the autumn, is air pressure/barometric pressure change. I’ve been tracking my migranes against the barometer predictions in my weather app and they do seem to coincide. I’ve known for a long time that I get sleepy and ‘brain fog’ just before a storm, but it does seem like falling or low pressure really affects me. Not sure what I can do to mitigate this, other than be aware of other sensory/triggers that tip me over into migraine. Interestingly lots of new phones seem to have barometers in these days, so maybe I can make a predictive app to warn me!
I can definitely see how a link between barometric pressure and migraines could be a thing. An app to track barometric pressure sounds like it could be really valuable to give you a heads up when you might be getting into a danger zone.
Kmaire also mentioned that she struggles with the shorter days. I’m curious whether you’ve ever tried any sort of artificial light therapy in the winter? I know someone who uses it for seasonal depression and it seems to help somewhat, though the lights look expensive (I was just off browsing amazon for them).
It’s interesting the mention of darkness. I lived in the north for a long time and the darkness never bothered me but I was the opposite and the endless days drove me bonkers.
They are expensive but maybe I should just splurge and try one for my sanity!;) good idea… I’m also with you on the cold. I am rarely hot and in summer I still have to sleep with my double goose blanket or I can’t sleep. I need to be warm and rarely am!
And I sorry about the menopause..: my cycles make life bad enough;( boo for hormones;(!
Back in Ireland, I suffered terribly with SAD. From October on it would get steadily worse until I was like an ill-tempered vicious bear come January. Either that or I could hardly muster the energy to move. Come first week of March, I was high. It was heaven in comparison but still not a great feeling. I got an SAD lamp the winter before we moved and I definitely liked having the extra light in my apartment but I think I just missed having more than a four hour window in which to go outside and be in daylight. The move to a sunnier climate has basically cured me, although I do still resent the increasingly earlier nightfall. I am a night owl, yet I want my fill of daytime hours, of bright sun, so I can enjoy the comforts of the dark.
I live in Vancouver (Canada) for the very reason of limiting seasonal sensory issues. The only other part of the world I would consider living is England because the weather is similar. I can handle wet, I can handle gloom, I can handle a little bit of heat (once I adapt to having my skin exposed), but I cannot handle white coldness. Keep the snow away from me! I spent nearly half my life in northern Canada (Yukon border-ish) and no more! I love a temperate climate because it is so constant. I wear mostly dresses and skirts and on cool days even in the summer I can just add leggings and a sweater. Only hot spells really throw me because I have trouble thinking straight, but cold is the worst (and don’t get me going about whiteness).
I love it when the weather is just cool enough for a sweater and leggings actually as I like having my skin covered and contrary to many others on the spectrum I love the scratch of wool sweaters, it’s like secret stimming (although my other clothes need to be soft).
It sounds like you’ve found the perfect climate for you. I’m envious. 🙂
I think you’re the first person on the spectrum I’ve met who likes wool! Just thinking about it is making me squirm, though I can totally see it being a kind of stim. I have that same kind of relationship with sensations that I’m sure others would find really unpleasant.
I do love wool 🙂 but just for sweaters. I can’t stand it on my ankles. I had a wool sweater when I was small and I loved the colour and it kept me snug when I was cold (which I often seem to be). I think that the association of the pleasing colour and the warmth just got mixed in with the fascinating prickle. I liked to rub my hands on it. My son won’t touch me if I have my newer favourite sweater on.
It smells good too doesn’t it?
On my ankles I like wool socks but only if they are very snug fitting. If they are loose they are maddening. So I make them fit perfectly 😃
Yes to the smell! I have a wool filled duvet and it still smells vaguely sheepish which is so much better than the chemical smell that bedding sometimes has.
I adore wool! I knit and spin and wear it a lot. I can tolerate, and even enjoy fairly rustic wools too. I never though of it as a stim, but I suppose it is – it’s quite comforting when I’m in the right mood.
Yes I am on the spectrum.
I can’t bear the feel of soft and/or drapey synthetics, or the cold but sweaty sensation of acrylic. Or anything with a “dense fuzzy” surface like synthetic chenille.
Totally relate to the creepy feel of drapey synthetics. You just got a physical shudder out of me.
I love wool, too!
And it comes in so many different qualities – from nicely scratchy to annoyingly scratchy to soft to too delicate for my touch. And it can smell of nasty chemical treatment and it can smell like the sheep it’s come from. I’m actually quite annoyed that wool is increasingly mixed with synthetic fibres that make washing easier but take away the advantages, i.e. not taking up environment smells, fire resistance etc.
And by the way, now that I’m on the subject, I don’t mind, no, I very definitely love wool-silk mixtures. In my collection of scarves, there are some and on a non-scratchy day, I will definitely wear those. They are soft and warm.
As soon as october comes, all cotton and linen cardigans – the silken scarves linger on a bit longer – go into the back of the cupboard, the woollen ones come to the fore, in all their variety from light to heavy. They form the insulating layer between cotton shirts and outdoor coats of all kinds.
The cotton socks are replaced by woollen ones normally early november.
The whole proces goes in reverse round april.
Yeah, in shops, I first go for colour, then touch. The touch tells me if there is any use in looking closer at a piece of garment. Next step is obviously the label telling me about the fibres. Only when that is satisfying, I’ll have a closer look at shape and style.
Recently, I needed something warm for sports in winter. I haven’t counted the number of shops in a variety of countries, the proces has been going on for about a year. As I can’t touch much of the synthetics on offer, I was very happy to find a wool-synthetics mix easy to wash that I can touch without running and screaming.
And now that I’ve written so much already, I’ll add that cardigans have been the solution for me since many, many years: they can be worn open or closed. They are easy to put on, to take off, or just pull them down from the shoulders leaving them on the underarms. And I do it, and with menopause sweating I felt that I had been lucky to have a cupboard full of them already, it just makes decisions and follow-up action so much easier. To pull a sweater over my head, no, that would be put off for too long, leaving me uncomfortable. Likewise for the scarves, they’re just so easy in handling.
I have two very well loved wool cardigans and several wool silk pashminas and they keep me comfortable and happy and the colours are so beautiful. I love clothing that meets many needs.
I’m getting an education on wool today! 🙂
Come to think of it, I do have a few pairs of wool hiking socks that I like on very cold days because they are amazingly warm.
This comment makes me very happy!
In addition to enjoying wearing wool, it is a long standing special interest of mine. There’s a sheep breed for every conceivable use and desired quality.
I am also increasing the number of cardigans I have for the same reason but it’s slow because I’m making them. It’s the only way to get exactly what I want (and it’s fun).
My favourite t shirts are made out of very finely spun merino wool. They are soft and comfortable and don’t hold onto smells. They are Superwash (scales removed from the fibres so they won’t felt in the wash) but no synthetic fibres blended in. They’re quite expensive but last much longer than cotton ones.
I love your description of different desired sensory qualities for different days. I’m the same, some days I enjoy coarser feeling wools, some days I need finer and softer wools. I like silk too. Spinning a toothy wool (like Shetland) lightly blended, so they stay a bit separate, with silk is a sensory treat with the delightful contrast between the two.
Sorry, this has got rather long! I did say it’s a special interest…
I hope no one minds.
One of the other cool things about wool are all of the textile traditions surrounding it like Fair Isle knits, Norwegian sweaters, Jerseys and Guernseys, Donegal tweeds … I mean really you could go on and on. 🙂
And I also have to agree on how wonderful wool is for not picking up smells. I love it for EF fails. If I forget to do laundry at least my wool doesn’t smell. Also when my boys were little I had them in wool diaper covers. Amazing how well they worked.
Itching at the thought of wool! Even something that looks like wool makes me itch…
Heheh, glad to see I’m not the only one that wears the same things over and over! And the thermometer is a great gauge. My senses work fine, I just need the numbers to remind me that “oh, it’s not that bad out there” is not a wise statement.
Summer and spring are my least favorite seasons because the weather is either getting hot or is already hot, and I’m not as sensitive to winter cold as I am to AC cold. I’m often sick in the summer because of the drastic temperature change from sixty degrees indoors (okay, maybe seventy) to ninety degrees outdoors, and I don’t sleep well because I don’t have my heavy blankets since they make me wake up in a sweat all summer long.
When blissful autumn starts, I gradually start layering and wearing thicker clothes. Once winter gets here, I’m likely in four shirts/sweaters and a pair of jeans and thermal leggings. And for once in the year, I am comfortable all day long. Sunlight is mildly stressful too. I enjoy sunshine, some days I love a long walk (if I can see, I’m very sensitive to light and prefer overcast days for the most part), so I really like it when winter comes through since there are a lot of overcast days and the nights are longer.
Not being able to use heavy blankets in the summer is a big drawback for me, but not big enough that I’ll use the A/C unless it’s unbearably hot. 🙂 I guess I’m one of the few people who prefer to hot rather than cold.
Yes to the heavy blankets!
This post describes my 8 yr old daughter to a T. Daily clothing struggles and obsessive temperature checking are her norm. She can go through several outfit changes in an hour never mind in a whole day of weather highs and lows. New and loved school clothes sit unworn in her drawer because she just can’t bear to put them on. Her ragged summer clothes still going strong cause they are the only clothes she can wear.
Her interiception abilities are lacking also. Happy to swim in a pool until she is nearly hypothermic; tearing off her clothing because she is suddenly so hot she can no longer deal; nearly wetting her pants because she doesn’t notice the urge to urinate till the need is extreme; denying hunger cues until she cannot wait another second to eat or the extreme and never ending need to satisfy her thirst immediately and with water only! I thought her absence of inner body cues were unique to her.
Thank you so much for putting into words how my daughter is feeling.
It sounds like she has pretty significant interoception issues. I’ve been able to make some progress in picking up on the signals my body is giving me sooner but often all I know is that I feel uncomfortable. I don’t relate the uncomfortableness to a specific sensation until, like your daughter, I have a crisis.
Also, as a kid I used to get so bent out of shape when I outgrew clothing and would wear stuff until it was falling apart and/or much too small. 🙂
I I sleep with 4-5 sometimes even more blankets each night, all year. This includes a weighted blanket. For me it’s a dep pressure thing.
Yep, definitely a pressure thing for me too.
Alright, now, I’m not quite sure if this is the place or the time, but for a long time there has been a question that I’ve wanted to ask and it is in some ways related to the themes of this post so I might as well give it a whirl.
For a while now my husband and I have been considering leaving Canada to do a trial run of living in England. We’re thinking about doing it in four or five years so this is more a distant goal, but I suppose that what I’m wondering is how people on the spectrum rate England as a place to live?
(I’m actually curious about other countries too– Germany, France, and the Netherlands for instance– but England is at the top of my list for language and climate reasons–okay and an obsession with all things English)
There are aspects of Canada that I love but it’s vastness causes me some difficulty. It’s hard to, say for instance, live in the country as it ends up being *so* far out of the city that you need a car (and I can’t drive) to get anywhere. Public transit isn’t so great in rural communities and I also find that fitting in in rural Canada is very difficult. I wish that I could live in the country, but not so far out that I couldn’t bus or train into the city for the day. I don’t find that a feasible option in the Greater Vancouver area. I’ve lived out in the Langley area but it is so built up now and the traffic is so dense that it doesn’t feel at all like you are out in the country anymore. The one thing that I loved about living in the Yukon was the quiet (I’m fairly noise sensitive) but I hated being so far away from civilization (and the cold). It is a thirty hour drive from Whitehorse to Vancouver (Canada is really big–I’m stating the obvious). Vancouver is the only city in Canada with a climate that I can abide by. I want to live somewhere rainy and not too hot where I can live in the country with out giving up access to the city and I want this without having to own a car. Can this be done in England (or any other country for that matter)? Are my desires impossible?
According to Tony Attwood the UK is quite tolerant of the eccentric (and I figure that any country responsible for both Red Dwarf *and* The Antiques Roadshow must be at least somewhat), but is this true?
Anyway I guess that what all this boils down to is that I am curious about other countries and weather being autistic is easier in some places than others (especially England). Are there any well traveled aspies out there who might have a sense of this?
Sorry if this is too off topic. 🙂
I often wonder about that too and there was a time I was obsessed about moving to Europe. I don’t drive either and I feel more trapped in winter where u do have to drive to survive where I live in Canada… But otherwise it’s working for me… I have found my niche and support system but I have been curious if it is true that England is more supportive of autistics…I don’t think I’d move now but it’s an interesting topic!
Hi, I live in England and would say if you are to move here pick your location very carefully. Some areas have poor health support and also bad public transport.
My wife does not drive, but she copes OK as it works for her lifestyle and I do drive. Public transport is expensive and unpredictable, I make a point of never using it unless I absolutely have too. Britain followed the USA in building a system around road transport and it is a disaster.
Being on the spectrum, I have heard many different tales, it seems to so much depend on area and the personal doctor you see. My wife is not ASD but has other health issues and it is a nightmare sometimes to get anything done.
Regarding Netherlands and Germany. Excellent public transport esp. in Holland (Netherlands) and the transport is integrated across a fair bit of Europe. My brother has worked in Europe mainly Holland and Germany for a couple of decades and he does not find the need to have a car there.
Sorry, I cannot comment on Autism support etc. in Europe.
On a personal note for me I would live in Germany or Holland, and if I can arrange things I will be in about 4 years.
Thanks for the response 🙂 I think that Canada and Britain are fairly similar in terms of health care but I have gotten the impression from comments online that the area you live in can make a difference in England. That being said, there are many parts of Canada that simply don’t offer certain services. Many women have to drive hours and hours or buy a plane ticket and fly to get to a hospital where they can give birth for instance, and the quality of care here also depends largely on how good your doctor is. Transit depends on the city here. Vancouver is great, but other cities lag behind. I will continue to consider Germany and Holland as well. Again, thank you.
Out of curiosity, are there any areas that you particularly either recommend or suggest avoiding?
A location that first springs to mind that seem to be OK is Edinburgh. According to a friend of mine his health care is quite good as well.
I find in England it depends a lot on where jobs can be found, price of accomodation and how much congestion / crowding one can put up with.
Another area that appears desirable is around aylesbury, hemel hempstead, some nice small villages around there, close to London for work etc. Expensive housing.
The Bath, Bristol area seems nice. The wife and I went to Bath a month or so ago to look around, work can be a problem and wages can be lower in the west country.
Where to avoid, thats a big question. For me Lincolnshire, especially the fens area. I tried it and would never go back. London area for me now is too crowded, thats why we tried Lincolnshire for 2 years.
The wife and I live in Hampshire now, a reasonable compromise, that works for us.
Certain parts of the UK have bad reputations for certain types of health care, depends on what you need.
Sorry if a bit vague, but for me some places just trigger negative responses in me, but not my NT wife so I am not always sure if it is just me.
This is really interesting, Thanks! Expensive housing is the norm for us living in Vancouver but weather a place is liked or not really does seem to be so subjective doesn’t it? I was amazed at how many people absolutely loved the Yukon but I disliked it for so many reasons including the quality of the light. But learning about a place from the perspective of those who live there is helpful.
I think you can meet your criteria in England, or Britain generally. I’d suggest the west coast of you’re after rain, and midlands or above to avoid heat. I don’t drive and live in a little village relying on buses. Can’t hurry anywhere but always get there in the end. Public transport is pretty good and I get free travel because of my disability. Buses go out into the wilds too. I think you’ll be forgiven almost anything as a Canadian living here, you’re generally well liked as a group 😃
Thanks, this is helpful. It sounds like what I am after as well. I should probably start researching different areas in more detail. I’ve always been fascinated by Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall… and also Yorkshire. 🙂
I used to wear the same clothes year-round, just adding a jacket or coat if the weather was cold, and didn’t have sensory issues. Now I’m finding that after a summer of skirts and dresses my jeans feel uncomfortably stiff and chafe around the waist, and I’m also very conscious of the sensation of long sleeves. Guess I’ll get used to it as the season progresses.
I’m not sure if it’s a matter of time or the consistency of the weather as winter hits full blast, but it does seem to get better with the arrival of truly cold weather.
My previous solution to this was telling my self to “pull myself together” and thinking if I “just figure it out” it will all become magically easy like it seams to be for other people.
My current solution is acknowledging that this really is hard, I’m not being silly, and it’s ok to find it distressing and to just do what I can to get through the change phase.
I hope to reach a point where I have a system in place that will make it easier and I will be able to be more flexible because of the structure I’ve established. I have no idea how to implement that yet!
Thank you for sharing this difficulty because it’s a very hard thing to explain to NTs and therefor very hard to feel “justified” in feeling like this.
Your current solution is how I approach a lot of things since getting diagnosed. At the very least, it’s validating and soothing.
About night sweats because of perimenopause:
It’s five years or so that I’m bothered by that. I wake up due to some undefined uneasiness, it takes a couple of minutes before I feel the heat. Trying to ignore it doesn’t work. Getting upset neither does the job. Now I just push aside the cover, wait till the worst is gone, pull the cover back over my body and fall asleep again. Timing the entire proces tells me it takes about ten minutes. Combining it with a trip to the loo seems an economically sound option due to cold on the way and no waking up for that afterwards.
Five years of training, it only happens once or twice per night now whereas it used to be five or six times. I have tried phytohormones in the beginning, to no avail, just food for someone else’s purse.
And it will eventually stop, sometime in the future, I am convinced.
When I first started to have the heatwaves, I commented that it wasn’t as bad as that because the first couple of months it was just a pleasant warmth, and that was a godsend to me that feels always cold in winter. Only when the sweating started I understood what other women had kept telling me.
I think what has helped me to just take it as it comes is reading about the purpose of sweating in general. But that is in general true for me: explain why something happens and the stress of it is gone almost entirely.
You say ‘validating and soothing’. Yes, it is.
THANK YOU FOR THIS!!! Something I can show to the school! My boy has always been like this…I myself in the past have tried to force him to comply with the season clothing changes…never worked…so I just let him be and eventually he will go with the flow….on the other hand it has taken the school longer to realize this. I explain to them that I had talked to an adult on the spectrum that was the same way as my boy…they don’t quite “get it” I’m preparing to hear from them as to him having to wear his jacket or coat…they currently don’t let him go out to recess without his jacket…I’m fine with this because it doesn’t cause a fight or a meltdown. Last year it did…and I wasn’t to happy with it….hopefully this year they will finally realize that this is how he is and always will be and to just leave him be. He is 8 btw
I hope the school listens. It’s a bit silly to force a child to stay in for recess because he won’t wear a coat- it’s not like he’s going to freeze to death in 20 minutes on the playground in October. Does he have an IEP? Can you get something about sensory sensitivities written into it? Not sure if it would be worth the hassle, even, but I thought I’d throw it out there.
It’s times like this when I feel like I have found my people!
I can’t tolerate wool on my skin but I love its warmth. So I wear turtle neck cotton all winter long. Sometimes inside out. My neck is very sensitive to breezes and light brushes of fabric, so just the right turtleneck is a must. Scarves can help or hurt depending on texture.
Yesterday was a gorgeous fall day and I was visiting a friend. I brought all kinds of layers. It was in the 60s but windy and I got chilled so I was wearing fleece hat, gloves, and muffler at one point. It’s warmth and pressure for me. I get cold very easily. In a way winter is good because everyone bundles up and I don’t look so much like a nut.
I have had a SAD light for almost ten years. It’s helped me a lot. I actually use it year round because I spend my workdays in an office. The one I bought was expensive but worth every penny, especially if I think of the cost being spread out over ten years.
I’ve been thinking about weighted blankets. I’m perfectly fine in the winter with my blankets and comforter, and it would be nice to have that feeling in the summer. Outside I like the feeling of being bundled up and layered, and add my backback and I’m happy. oh and my hand warming packets when it’s in the teens or below help too.
I know cotton can be dangerous to wear in the winter (sweating and freezing) but wool and synthetics against my skins drive me batty. I have found some good socks that don’t bother me too much, thank goodness.
It’s great to know that your SAD light works for you year round. Working in an office without windows would be hard for me, I think.
I love my weighted blanket though I don’t sleep with it. It would be too heavy to use for more than an hour or so. I do like to use it while watching TV in the evening or when I’m come home from a difficult social event. There’s something about the pressure that feels very organizing, if that makes sense.
I’ve been doing something similar with my move to a new town. I do like to try new foods, but because moving is overwhelming sensory-wise, I’ve been sticking to a few go-to places and branching out only when I feel ready to.
The last month for me was pretty stressful! My new place isn’t the same as my old room. I caught a pretty bad cold, and right now I have allergies. It wasn’t until now that I’ve been getting better sleep and regrouping emotionally. I’m planning to get a SAD light because it rains a lot here in Seattle; you rarely see the sun come out. I’ve started using earplugs in class to help me focus.
The only thing I don’t have a coping strategy for is the unnecessary advice people seem to really want to give me here. That can be a sensory overstimulation all on its own, because I can sense everyone else’s stress and need to control something (anything). Whoever said autistics can’t feel anything are completely wrong. And what makes it worse? That advice doesn’t always help.
I don’t really have a lot of coping strategies either (just try everything I can), but what I can say is to hang in there and use any method possible! Hang in there! Maybe your body needs time to adjust!
Maybe when someone starts offering advice you could interject a quick, “Oh, that’s so thoughtful of you to want to help but I really just needed a sympathetic ear. Thank you for listening.” and then change the subject. It might come off as a little brusque but it could help cut down on having to listen to all that well-meaning but stressful advice.
Thank you for the good wishes!
I hate shoes becasue they press on my feet. sandals are so much better, soft sandals. Plastic sandals are hard to find and not strong enough, shame. I love feeling the breeze on my bare arms because I’m a sensory seeker.
at home, I kick off the crocks I wear. I like wearing a loose nightgown without the feel of clothes against my skin. dont like makeup, dont like sunscreen, dont like some kind of liquidish soap. and the humidity in the air feels like an extra skin clinging to my skin, an extra weight, and i dont mean a weighted blanket by any means.
Well despite some very chilly days I’m still wearing my shorts for dog-walking every day! I keep telling myself that I need to change into trousers but it’s not happened yet despite my knees suffering from the cold. And although I own two pairs of outdoor shorts (as opposed to the soft jersey cotton ones that are designed for ‘loungewear’) I only wear one of the pairs too! They feel better. Next time I wash them I’ll put them back in the drawer and get the trousers out ready – that way I’m over the first hurdle. I’m fine at changing indoors but then I guess that’s because I wear either joggers or soft shorts and they live in the same drawer so it’s as easy to get one or the other out and they’re equally comfortable. And because I have multiple pairs of the same style & colour I don’t notice that I’m wearing different pairs so they get rotated (deliberately – I’ll put the clean pair at the bottom of the pile when I put them away)
I tend to wear t-shirts all the time and just put a shirt over as needed so there’s no big deal between the seasons (as it can be shirt weather all year round). But it’ll take me ages to get round to putting a coat on and then which coat? Do I wear it with a shirt under? It’s all about removing the difficult decisions for me. Stick a coat on the peg downstairs and there’s a chance of me wearing it. Leave it in the cupboard upstairs and there’s no chance.
I go through all my clothes once or twice a year and try them all on in one afternoon. That way I’m sorted. And I’ve got into the habit of wearing them in strict order – I can only wear the next t-shirt or shirt in the row. Clean ones go back at the other end. That way I get to wear all and not just the two favourites, and, very importantly, I have no decision to make. Given that most of my t-shirts are grey or navy there’s no problem with whether they go with shirts or not (not that I’d really notice).
I really like your rotation system. I think something like that would get me to wear a wider selection of clothes each season. Mostly I get set on a few items and keep rotating through them as soon as they come out of the laundry. With all of the exercise clothing I have to wash, I could literally just alternate two sets of clothes, grabbing the clean one straight out of the dryer, and never even go into my closet.
Well I’d got to the stage when I’d wear one grey t-shirt and one navy one and none of the rest. If they were both in the wash I’d struggle to decide on an alternative. This way the spoons remain in the drawer that bit longer. And I’m creating new favourites which is a lovely feeling – not quite as good as Christmas every day but equivalent to the advent calendar chocolate!!
That’s a clever system for organising your clothes! I think I need to try it. I have a full wardrobe I never touch, and a chairdrobe of clothes I rotate through so quickly they don’t get put away. I stick with the same things because of the mental effort of finding and choosing anything else. Your system could be the answer for getting to the clothes I like but don’t use.
I’m going to start using chairdrobe 🙂
Major news – I wore my trousers this morning!! I washed my shorts yesterday and put them away and got the trousers out ready to go so I had no excuse. It felt weird this morning but they’re still comfy (close to being worn out). I do need to rotate my trousers too though.
Yay! Good job. 🙂
Spring is my favorite. Two things that I notice about the season change, or specifically, fall into winter. Fall into winter the air dries out and I start to become even more hyper aware of how clothing feels on my body. My skin gets very dry and feels so tight. Before going to bed at night I have to cover my arms and shoulders with lotion and wait for it to sink in (has to be something on greasy like Lubiderm) and once it’s dry, then I crawl into bed. The other thing that I note is how the cold effects me. I’ve never been great with it, and I’m a winter (January) baby. My body actually aches out in the cold, and it makes my chest hurt. I will literally get a pain in my chest/heart when it gets really cold out (20’s and below) and I am outside in that kind of cold. It does not happen all the time but when it does it is so painful. I’ve often wondered why this is, and now I wonder if it is a common thing for those of us on the spectrum or who have sensory issues. I’m aware of this so I move slower in the winter when outside and don’t breath as deep to make sure I am not taking in the cold air too fast, but it still happens.
The weather in Israel is alwayes like that duering winter. I really like the weathet, but it is really hard to chose proper clothes.
I would footnote or add a parenthetical explanation to your reference to “spoons” in the tenth paragraph. Some readers may not be familiar with that metaphor.
Being a Brit, we don’t have too much weather distinctions- it is generally extremely changeable, which in itself is both a blessing (you’re more prepared for a range of conditions) and a curse (two days of proper summer, you’re planning on officially switching to summer wardrobe, when the weather turns and you get 2+ weeks of cool Aut/Spring dullness in June).
But I’ve always been very particular when it comes to regulating my own body temperature. I’m basically sh*te at it. I can’t tell whether I’m too warm, though I do tend to be aware if I’m very cold, but I find it so hard to actively ‘notice’ it even if I concentrate. I’m not sure how to categorise this, as I’m also an avid heat seeker, and will gladly sit in front of a heater irrespective of season or happily have a shower just shy of scalding, and in terms of this behaviour it’d only get ‘too much’ when the heat becomes extremely uncomfortable or dangerously hot. Those situations tend not to be too much of a big deal, however out and about I OFTEN find myself suddenly realising that I am too hot (I get prickly spikes of heat up my back), and have to strip off immediately- not just a few layers, but back to skin. Not great if I’m anywhere in public but it does happen inside my own home. This only ever happens due to my own internal temperature getting too much- it’s never been because I’ve been in front of the heater, but rather I’ve walked to a friend’s house and the exercise caused the overheat. Wearing too many layers, and not noticing the incremental signs to adjust them accordingly.
Anyway, I just wanted to say that I was amazed at seeing this post where you describing the exact same thing. I’ve only just been diagnosed at 27, so I’m still figuring things out. But this was something that though I’d asked the various people about in the course of my diagnosis, they’d shrugged their shoulders and drawn a blank. So its great to see that I’m not the only one- and even more, understand what that effect is coming from. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to meet other aspies or get involved in any kind of ASD community, so I’m very much on my own. But its been fascinating looking at your site, so thanks!
I tend to get very groggy around seasonal changes. Here in Japan we actually have 5 very distinct seasons….summer, fall, winter, spring and rainy season. Each seasonal change has strong winds and very sudden and unexpected temperature changes as well as climate changes (humid to dry, dry to humid). The lifestyle of the city doesn’t help much either as most commute to work or live in buildings without central air or heating so we are literally “out in it” all the time. The seasonal changes can be brutal on a lot of people, leading to low immunity, sickness, alllergies, even some people complain their joints get sore when the barometer pressure bounces around. The transition between fall and winter is the worst for me and tends to be a season where I constantly feel I have a cold or the sniffels and feel especially lethargic. Rainy season is terrible for stomach problems caused by food going bad a lot faster. Never really had a problem as much in the states, even though I lived in the high elevations were climate could fluxuate throughout the day. Until I started living here, I didn’t really even notice the big seasonal changes.
Reblogged this on Broken Brain – Brilliant Mind and commented:
This sounds really familiar!
Mmmmm, the sensory stuff is painful also because it’s hidden to everyone else around us. I wear a pair of roll-down top Bonds pants. Like tracksuit pants but more stylist. But not yoga pants. I buy 2 new pairs in time for winter so they are ideal for the cooler months. And I wear them all year round. The upper layers change with the seasons. Ayers sweetie. Layers.
Thank you so much. I have a 5 year old sensory seeker. He is so AMAZING but he can be so challenging at times. I’m aware that is usually rooted in a sensory issue that he’s unable to communicate. I’ve noticed weather change can bring about especially challenging moods. Being in Louisiana means all of “fall” and “winter” is t-shirt one day, heavy coat next day. I think your writing might explain a lot he’s unable to communicate right now. Thank you so much for sharing!!