To be honest with you, I have not found a whole lot about how our weather conditions can affect a person with Autism. I have found through my more than 20 years of experience with Sarah, that the weather outside plays a key role on how her behavior is going to be.
A Facebook friend of mine whose daughter is only diagnosed with Autism seems to have the classic Autistic meltdowns when the weather is bad. The meltdowns seem to be a little better when the weather is good.
This made me rethink the connection between the weather conditions and Autism. It seems to me that since people who are diagnosed with Autism or on the Autism Spectrum have processing problems, then that would include the weather wouldn’t it? They have issues with smells, sights and hearing, not to mention any particles that might be in the air.
One of the few studies on this topic explores the connection between rainy climates and autism prevalence. According to the study, “Children in California, Oregon and Washington are more likely to develop autism if they lived in counties with higher levels of annual rainfall when they were 3 or younger, suggesting that something about wet weather may trigger the disorder.” This could be because of the lack of sunshine, the increased exposure to television because of the inability to play outside, longer exposure to cleaning chemicals or other toxic substances, or the pressure changes inherent with weather systems which produce precipitation.
This can describe exactly what we go through here in the north when we have the sun setting at 4pm and bitterly cold climates that result in more time indoors.
In 1898, Edwin Dexter, a Denver school teacher, became curious about how barometric pressure affected the behavior of his students (neurotypical we can assume, since it’s unlikely that autistic children were permitted in standard classrooms at this time) and studied 606 cases of corporal punishment over a 4 year period. He found that days with abnormal barometric pressure did in fact have a higher rate of behavior issues.
Another study looked at in a 2004 issue of “Crime Times” found a connection between psychiatric symptoms and barometric pressure. The researchers documented both violent crimes, suicides, emergency psychiatric visits, and psychiatric admissions in Louisville in 1999, and weather conditions such as humidity, wind speed, and barometric pressure. They found a link between acts of violence and emergency psychiatric visits with the barometric pressure (none between suicide or inpatient admissions). Schory and his team noted that barometric pressure was associated with changes in cerebral blood flow, premature labor, and changes in certain endorphins related to depression. Their ultimate finding was that “”barometric pressure may alter the propensity toward impulsive behavior through changes in brain monoamines or cerebral blood flow.”
Although the majority of these studies did not directly connect autistic behaviors and weather changes, they do all show that mood and behavior are affected by barometric pressure.
If even neurotypical people have a difficult time pinpointing what is making them feel upset or easily frustrated, and children have a harder time with it than adults, how much MORE difficult is it for our children on the spectrum?! In addition, since we don’t know exactly what makes our children autistic to begin with, and scientists are still exploring the biological and physiological differences that cause or are caused by autism, we have no idea to what extent changes in weather really affect our children and their behavior.
I think weather conditions change all of our behaviors to a certain degree. People with Autism just seem to have a harder time with it.
What do you think?