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Spring Fever

Welcome to silly season.


Boy Looking Goofy
Glow Images/Getty Images

Wacky kid behavior often comes in waves. If spring has brought on a bad case of the sillies for your special child, here are some possible explanations -- and what to do about them.

Your child may not have the body awareness or language skills necessary to explain to you about the tingle in his nose or the pressure in her sinuses, but the lightheadedness and "spacey" feeling that often accompanies allergies can leave kids feeling distracted and disoriented. If itchy eyes, sniffles or headaches accompany the onset of silliness at your house, check with your pediatrician about the possibility of an allergy diagnosis.

The wild swings in weather that often come with the onset of spring can represent a disruption of routine for kids who are sensitive to change. Changes in climate can bring changes of air pressure that can have a kid feeling out of sorts for no good reason, too. Long days of rain and the lack of outdoor play that brings can make kids antsy, and staring out a classroom window at a beautiful sunny day can make them restless. Try to keep routines as consistent as possible, and have a stash of fun rainy-day activities at hand.

Changing from one set of clothes to another can be a challenge to kids with tactile sensitivity -- getting used to different fabrics and styles, having more skin exposed, dealing with stiff new togs or mourning the loss of outgrown outfits. Make sure to keep your child's sensory-related clothing preferences in mind when buying new stuff for the new season, and do whatever customizing is needed, such as cutting out tags, before your child has to wear them.

School vacations, although beloved by kids, can also lead to stress due to changes in routine and large blocks of unstructured time. Travel during those vacations brings with it a whole additional level of routine-disruption stress. Try to keep things as normal and planned as possible, and give your child plenty of preparation for new and unusual activities or places. Provide maximum support and hold minimum expectations for these often hard-to-handle periods.

Growth spurt
If your child tends to shoot up in height around this time of year, be aware that this can be a profoundly disorganizing process for him or her. Children with sensory integration and motor planning problems may find the difference in length of limbs and distance to the floor confusing and frustrating, and may have to completely revise their already blurry body awareness. Clumsiness, anger, regression of motor skills, tears for no reason, and an attitude of "giving up" can all be signs that your child is coping with a growth spurt badly. Explaining the situation may help, and extra support and lowered expectations will likely be called for. 

Developmental leap
At this point, about three-quarters of the way through the school year, kids may be making major developmental leaps. They may be speaking more, reading more, understanding more, processing more, moving more, sensing more, feeling more. Those are all good things. And they're bad things, because when children with special needs jump to a new developmental level, everything has to come apart and get put back together again in a stronger and more advanced form. That falling-apart time can be difficult for everyone, but hold on: Things will be so much better when it's over.

The same, for parents
Kids aren't the only ones to react to these springtime stressors. Parents do, too. If you're suffering from allergies, feeling the changes in weather, going crazy with closet changes, agonizing over the way your spring clothes fit, getting caught up in vacation plans, worrying about what to do with your child over spring break, all of these things will up your stress level and lower your levels of patience, understanding, and time to spend with kids. Your child is likely to react to that very, very badly. Stop and take a look at whether your stress may be contagious. And then smell the flowers. Help your child smell them, too.

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