With high summer temperatures across much of the United States, most families are challenged simply keeping everyone comfortable and hydrated.
If you add into a household mix a family member who is affected by autism, August can be a tricky month for everyone. This was too true for our family when Heidi and her three older sisters were growing up. With her dual-diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, she was cute as a pixie, but often kept us on high alert (or “Heidi alert” as I sometimes called it).
I recall countless summer vacations during which it sure didn’t feel like a vacation. Freedom from school, schedules, sports, and “stuff” was delicious, but too much free time and the heat rising in our home created the perfect storm of teasing, tempers and tantrums. I hated August at times. But we never gave up. With no central air-conditioning in our home, it wasn’t easy, but we used tried-and-true methods to beat the heat.
My advice to stay cool? Keep it Up.
Get up: If you’re doing yard work, exercising your child’s therapy dog, or even playing outside, get up earlier to beat the blaze.
Dress up: Clothing that is lighter in color and looser in weave is usually more comfortable. Cotton, for instance, is cooler than a tight polyester knit. Heidi always had a couple of favorite outfits she insisted on wearing — whether it was freezing cold or boiling hot — so I tried to kindly and creatively convince her to adapt.
Read up: Nature’s way to detoxify our body is through perspiration, so please don’t be afraid to sweat. It’s actually good for us. Countless individuals with autism test abnormally high in chemicals, toxins and heavy metals in their systems, and have experienced improved health and less anxiety with gradual natural detoxification methods, including far-infrared sauna treatments.
Swap up: The last thing we need is more chemicals, so consider switching strong anti-perspirants for a good deodorant (that neutralizes odor but won’t clog your pores). There are also herbal capsules (like parsley) that safely reduce body odor.
Lock up: Generally exterior doors are more open in the summertime, and families are less apt to be alert for elopement (leaving unexpectedly) within the special needs population. So if you’re at a gathering with friends and family, encourage everyone to help keep an eye out for this risk, or take shifts to help avoid unsafe situations.
Partner up: If impulsively running off/wandering is common, explain this to law enforcement and trusted neighbors, requesting them to be a part of a “neighborhood watch group.”
Link up: A helpful tool for parents of individuals with communication challenges is a sturdy ID bracelet. If you have a “night wanderer,” I recommend leaving it on all the time, and install deadbolt locks out of the child’s reach.
Drink up: Getting hydrated is a chore for most families, but wise parents try to explain why, then insist that it be done daily — especially before going out in the heat.
Add up: To help “boring” water go down easier, add natural flavors to give refreshing variety like lemon, lime or a few drops of other citrus fruit. Personally, I like peppermint leaves in my water.
Cook up: To avoid heating up the kitchen and house, opt for menus that are cooked outside. (Remember, eating meat usually causes people to feel hotter afterwards, so grill smaller portions.)
Pass up: Overly spicy or salty foods like nuts, jerky, chips and salsa contribute to thirst and should be served minimally during really hot spells.
Eat up: Foods such as cucumber, watermelon, berries and salads are naturally hydrating and refreshing, so try to buy or grow them for a win/win way to beat the heat.
Block up: Some care providers purchase insulated window curtains for better darkness and heat control, while others use aluminum foil to block out the light. We wanted sunshine options, so I measured, cut and covered cardboard sheets with cute contact paper, and put them on our windowsills.
Ease up: If the heat is extreme, yet you have activities or chores that require a lot of exertion, consider bumping them to later or earlier times. If it must be done, ease up a bit — nothing is worth getting heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Play up: August is a great month to turn on the lawn sprinklers or fill a little pool and let everyone be a kid. Even going through the hottest part of the day in damp clothes, or a wet bandana or ball cap, is a free and easy tip.
Open up: In the evenings, cross-ventilation from open windows is a tried-and-true method to help cool down the house. (Be sure to close them in the morning to retain the benefits.)
Latch up: Opening the windows for a cross-breeze is great, but with loved ones affected by a disability or precious pets, you’ll sleep better knowing there’s a screen safety secured in each window.
Store up: The most vital emergency item to store at home is water. Think about washing wounds without water, swallowing medications, or helping service animals survive a disaster. Please learn how to safely store water today. You’ll be grateful you did.
Best wishes for the rest of your summer! Oh, and keep your chin up, too.
Elayne Pearson is a Special Needs Preparedness and Safety Specialist. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.hiddentreasuresofhealth.com