Preparing for Daylight Savings Time with Neurodivergent Young People: Ask, Accept, Develop

By Dr Freya Spicer-White, Head of Neurodiversity Practice and Standards

The biannual change of adjusting our clocks for Daylight Savings Time might seem simple, but for neurodivergent young people, the shift can disrupt routines and internal body clocks. By applying the principles of our Neurodivergent Strategy, Ask, Accept, and Develop, we can ease the transition, ensuring that everyone adjusts comfortably and healthily.

Ask: Understand the Individual’s Needs

Open Dialogue: Begin by discussing the concept of Daylight Savings Time and gauge their understanding and feelings about it. Recognise that for some, even a slight change in routine can be unsettling and cause stress.

Assess Sleep Patterns: Understand the young person’s sleeping habits. Are they night owls or early birds? Do they have difficulty falling asleep or waking up? This knowledge can help you to tailor strategies for the transition.

Consider Daily Routines: Since the time change can impact daily activities like meal times, school, and playtimes, think about their typical day so you can proactively prepare those times and activities that might need more support during the transition.

Accept: Embrace Their Unique Experience

Different, Not Deficit: It’s essential to understand that neurodivergent individuals may experience the world and its changes, like Daylight Savings Time, differently. This isn’t a deficiency but a unique perspective. For some people the hour change does not have any impact on their lives, for others it can be highly disruptive.

Flexible Adjustments: Instead of enforcing a strict change, consider gradual adjustments. For instance, shifting bedtimes or wake-up times by 10-15 minutes in the days leading up to the change might be more manageable than a sudden hour shift.

Educate and Advocate: Think about everyone in the neurodivergent young person’s life, their family, teachers, caregivers and peers, and make sure they are aware of the potential challenges faced by neurodivergent young people during this time. Encouraging a supportive environment can make a world of difference.

Develop: Support a Smooth Transition

Gradual Shifts: In the week leading up to the time change, consider adjusting schedules slowly. This can be in the form of meal times, bedtime, or other daily routines, shifting by small increments to ease into the new time.

Create Visual Aids: Visual schedules, clocks, and calendars can help in understanding and preparing for the change. Highlighting the day of the change and discussing the “new” routine can be reassuring.
Maintain Consistency: While some adjustments are necessary, try to keep as much of their routine consistent as possible. Familiar activities can serve as anchor points during the transition.

Reflect and Adapt: After the time change, discuss their feelings and experiences. Were there particular challenges? What went smoothly? Use this feedback for the next time change.

In conclusion, while Daylight Savings Time adjustments might be routine for many, for neurodivergent young people, they can pose genuine challenges. By integrating our Ask, Accept, and Develop principles, we can create an environment of understanding, patience, and support, ensuring a smoother transition and a more comfortable experience for all.