Late Autumn

Changing colors on the trees, crisp air and apples, cool weather perfect for walks. What’s not to love about this time of year? And yet at October’s end I always look with some dread towards November, when we switch the clock back and it’s dark earlier. Although it does have two of my favorite holidays, Election Day and Thanksgiving, I’m not a big fan of November, given how it segues from brisk to brrr. So as much as I enjoy fall it gets harder for me to stay in the moment as it progresses, to look with delight at the turning leaves and not immediately go into a lament about the imminent onset of winter.

It’s also a challenge not to worry so much about the difficulties V has as the seasons change: his sensory issues and executive functioning skills are put to the test as the temperature drops. He’s fine when it’s moderate out, wearing unzipped sweatshirts that he keeps on all day; even if it warms up in the afternoon it’s not that big of a problem. But as it gets colder the real issues begin because once he puts something on he won’t take it off. So because a heavy layer would stay on all day, we tend to keep him in hoodies that won’t be too warm in the classroom yet can withstand the brisk air. This year he is refusing all warmer pullover sweatshirts, even his old standbys like the XXL hoodie we call Big Grey that he has lived in the past two years during in-between weather. Once true cold hits it gets even worse, as heavy jackets either won’t go on or are difficult to get off once he’s inside.

Most of us have some sort of sensory issues, although we likely don’t call it by that name. Take clothes for example. I don’t like wearing turtlenecks because they feel too restrictive. but I love wearing scarves around my neck. People have textures they prefer and those they avoid. We don’t always have explanations for why, we just know how we like to feel. Throughout the pandemic lots of people have rediscovered the ease and comfort of sweatpants or flannels, the category I call pajamas you can wear in public. It’s hard to go back to jeans and button down shirts after the forgiving nature afforded drawstrings and soft cotton. I have relegated to the attic most of what I used to wear this time of year, like corduroy pants and tailored sweaters, in favor of loose shirts, hoodies, and yoga pants. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back.

Many people as well struggle with executive functioning, which is basically the brain’s self management system. Executive functions are cognitive processes needed to control behavior. They enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions and juggle multiple tasks successfully.  V’s poor executive functioning symptoms include impulsiveness, trouble completing multi-task instructions, and problems successfully completing activities of daily living as simple as bathing and dressing.  It’s why after so many years he still will often dress in the wrong order when not closely supervised, putting on underwear over his sweatpants or occasionally putting on his sweatshirt without a shirt on underneath.  (We need to then find a shirt large enough to put on top.) He also will put on several layers of clothes or two or three pairs of socks when he finds them. This is why we need to keep extra clothes out of view and lament the times we miss something and he ends up with a ridiculous looking outfit. T is much thicker skinned than I, and doesn’t have a problem going out with V when he is dressed out of sequence or in extra layers while I have a harder time with it (especially the underwear on the outside look : ).  

This is all part of the reason I’d like to move to a different climate. Much as I appreciate the beauty of snow I’m not a big fan of winter, of the extra hours inside, of the added chaos in our home. I could easily be a snowbird and fly the coop from December to March. I’m hardly alone in that desire. I just have some added reasons why winter is so challenging. And that makes late autumn that much harder. Still, I look up at the trees during our daily walks and relish the first hints of yellow and burnt orange, the occasional bright reds. I take in all the pumpkins and mums and Halloween decorations that are rampant in my neighborhood. I appreciate the days when being unzipped is still okay, and hope that we’ll find a way to stay warm and comfortable when the time comes.

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