Feb 07, 2014 0 Share

When the Weather Outside is Frightful


City in a snowstorm.
Thinkstock

Has anyone been listening to all this “Polar-Vortex” talk that has been happening in the United States? With snow, snow and more snow in the forecast, especially where I live in New Jersey, I wanted to talk about the issue of weather which I feel many people in our community can relate to. 

When I was a kid many of my issues were sensory-related. I hated all types of things that could give me sensory overload. At the top of the list was the weather, especially inclement weather. Things like thunder would make me jump, rain would make me shiver, and wind would make me feel extremely uneasy. Now as an adult I’ve noticed that weather has again become a major issue surrounding transitioning. 

I’ve been thinking of these transitions due to the horrible weather we’ve been getting on the East Coast. Every day recently we have a cold day with lots of wind, a cold rainy day, and/or a day filled with snow and it always take me longer to get from Point A to Point B. The main problem I’ve seen so far has been with commuting to work. My commute consists of getting a ride from one of my parents to the subway, taking the subway into New York from New Jersey and then walking about another mile to work. In this commute the problems I am experiencing are: 

  1. It takes me a few extra minutes in the mornings to get extra layers of clothes on for the day.
  2. When I eventually get out the cold messes with my joints. I have arthritis in both knees, so whenever it gets cold out I turn into a snail, which results in taking extra time to get to work.
  3. When it snows or rains I’m always trying to watch my footing. One problem I had as a child—which has only got better slightly as an adult—is with balance. I end up taking small penguin-like steps which, again, makes it a longer commute each day. Having anxiety about falling doesn’t help with the balance issue.
  4. Then there’s the problem with transportation. During the colder months we are usually more vulnerable to delays when it comes to catching the subway. This has made me more aggravated because I like having a solid routine and delays ruin my schedule. 

Overall, what I will say is that I’m a lot happier to be in the place I am now then where I was before. The time management issues of being a few minutes late to work here and there are vastly less problematic than feeling trapped inside by the weather when I was a kid. From the standpoint of being a self-advocate, I’m really curious to see how others on the spectrum feel towards different types of weather. Is it easier on the West Coast or in the South than on the East Coast? Maybe it’s easier weather internationally? 

I’d like to issue a challenge for more autism organizations to address these types of weather issues by forming best practice guidelines that can be sent to individuals on the spectrum and their families. In the meantime, my best advice is simple: Be prepared for any type of weather. Make sure to always have an extra set of clothes on hand with you and don’t leave home without an umbrella! These tips and more can make a world of difference.