Almanac: Embracing Winter with Six Health and Healing Preparations for Autism

How to care for someone who cannot tell you where hurts

This has been my most requested post and there seems no better time to write it than as we enter the colder months, amidst the coronavirus pandemic. I am a mother of five and two of my sons have profound non-verbal autism with high sensory sensitivity. Written below, is how we aim to help our little chaps when they are under the weather.

  1. Change the environment around them

Dealing with the environment around my child is easier than trying to change what they wish to do. When they are ill, they can revert to a more fundamental version of their autism and years of progress can temporarily dissolve away until they recover.

Our house lights can be controlled with our phones (and wall switches) to dim and change colour. We also have tilting window shutters. This means that we can change the degree of light or ambience, as well as air flow, to create a peaceful place for them. In this season of shortened days, we have programmed the lights to recreate dawn and dusk, gradually rising and dimming at the times of day that they should wake or feel sleepy.

I use an atomiser with warm water and lavender oil to soothe them, or eucalyptus and tea tree oil to help with decongesting their noses if they catch a cold.

Music can alter the ambience of a room immediately. We keep our music device well out of reach, as autism can create an urge to play the same few seconds of a tune over and over again. There is a great post on how to rig up an old iPhone here: Tip For Playing Music For Children, Particularly Children with Autism.

2. Soothing warm (or cold) blankets to hold

My sons will not abide anyone trying to help blow their noses and I cannot give them tissues, as they both cannot resist shredding them into tiny pieces. Instead, I keep a large stack of soft baby muslin cloths. I warm these in the tumble drier or on radiators and then add Albas oil or my sleep oil mix to them and they will cuddle these happily, and instinctively dab at their noses.

3. A safe place to rest

My older autistic son finds head colds very bothering as if something is stuck there and this can provoke him to make sudden head movements. I have found the best way to help him is to surround him with a giant duvet and cushions in what I call his “get better nest”.

4. Hugging and consoling a sensory-sensitive child

My little sons often do not like to be cuddled or held if they have fevers – their sensory autism means that changes in body temperature can feel extreme and any touch adds to either the heat or the cold. I can help them by spraying them with a perfume atomiser of cooled sterilised water that we always have handy in the fridge if they are hot, or hugging them through warmed blankets if they are cold.

(In summer months I create Aloe Vera Ice Cubes with Added Dinosaurs )

5. Water Therapy

My older autistic son is running a temperature, he likes to spend time in the shower, where the water brings his temperature down and the steam helps clear his sinuses.

My younger son is wary of getting water in his eyes, but does have a fascination with running water in general – so I can usually get him to sit in a bath and play with a running tap, whilst I create a lavender steam for him in the nearby sink or little bowl.

6. Taking Medicine

In preparation for them taking medicine, I have helped my sons get used to the oral syringe included with most child liquid medicines. I fill the syringe with water and a touch of honey for a similar consistency to let them practise. If they ever need to take medicine, at least they are familiar with the process of using the syringe.

Is there anything you can add to this list that helps you and your loved ones? I’d love to read your comments below.

Wishing you and your family a safe and healthy winter time

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I’ve linked below to where you can buy the items mentioned in my post from Amazon. If you click on the picture and buy the item I will get a small commission to help support my art.

Tisserand Aromatherapy – Lavender Essential Oil, 9 ml

ASAKUKI 300ml Essential Oil Diffuser, Ultrasonic Aromatherapy Scented Diffuser Humidifier for Room, Spa, Baby with LED Changing Lights and Waterless Auto Shut-Off, BPA-Free Wood Grain

Potager Garden: Unexpected arrivals, bees in motion and the first potato harvest

We are still keeping up with the early starts. Bright light streams in around the tiny gaps in the shutters; getting up is not so hard when the sun is waiting to greet you.

In the garden, the bees arrive dozily, a few at a time, meandering amongst the lavender flowers. Soon, there are countless numbers, the tempo increases and the combined buzzing is audible from the other side of the garden. Nature’s own rush hour.

Share in our morning ritual and enjoy this slow-motion capture of the first bumble bee of the day on the lavender flowers.

By the French doors, a single sprig of self-seeded verbena catches the breeze. I have tried buying verbena plants from the garden centre before and they have never taken. During the lockdown, I have been a lot more appreciative of “weeds” and their potential as free flowers. I have been allowing them to grow and, like a lucky dip, seeing what I have got. I’m so happy with this latest arrival.

Tucked into an old mossy log that forms part of the edging to our stream, a strange silvery leafed “weed” appeared this April. It looked a little like sage at first, then grew taller and taller, the leaves became scallop-edged and multiple large buds drooped heavily towards the ground. By then, we had already guessed it was a poppy, but could never have imagine how beautiful it would be.

On my kitchen windowsill, I thought I was only nursing newly sprouted courgette seedlings, safely away from the greedy snails. However, little bell-like mushrooms appeared overnight; there must have been some spores in the organic compost. The tiny fungi only survive into the afternoon before withering, though for the next few days, every morning I find another trio.

When my order of bird netting arrives by post, I plant the courgettes into the old onion bed, with gravel around the stem, copper mesh and the netting stretched above. So far, so good.

The rose has been persuaded to attach to the arbour and now, clinging on securely, it is climbing at speed. Fresh buds are appearing daily. My little daughter, who always likes to run around the garden before her breakfast, enthusiastically points out any new ones, happily calling “flower!”

As soon we see the honey-scented white blossoms appear amongst the vegetable plants, it is time for our first ever potato harvest. Unlike most of the vegetables we grow in our potager, the potatoes give no hint to the size of their crop, hidden so completely beneath the soil. Even onions give you a bit of a glimpse of how things are going.

My son chitted these seed potatoes throughout Lent and, keeping with horticultural tradition, dug the trenches for them on Good Friday and kept them watered them throughout the draught. I really wanted them to be a success for him. Happily, he is able to pull the plants out whole from the loose no-dig soil and as he triumphantly raises them aloft, the bounty of new potatoes hang beneath on tiny white stems like little baubles.

We ate this first batch within an hour of unearthing them, simply boiled and served with a little butter. They were delicious; soft and melting. It was one of those times I have wished for our own acre of land, meaning we would never need to buy shop-bought potatoes again.

Newly emptied terracotta pots now await my next round of seedlings.

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Seasonal Recipes: Homemade lavender oil pillow spray and sleep cloth for children

One of our little boys has profound autism and this sleepy spray blanket forms part of our nightly routine to help him to settle down for sleep peacefully.  I prefer to spritz the mild scent onto a cloth, as opposed to a pillow, because I am then able to warm the blanket on a radiator or in the airing cupboard first.  I can also remove it once he has fallen asleep, so that he isn’t breathing in the essential oils all night, and he then doesn’t have it during the day, so there is no risk of it becoming a habitual comfort blanket he cannot be without.

A muslin cloth can be washed and dried in minimal time, is entirely portable (for day trips, holidays or long journeys where a nap might be needed) and easily replaceable.  We usually give the warm, lavender cloth to our son around an hour before bedtime, just after he has had his evening bubble bath, and he loves it – holding it to his cheek and breathing deeply.*


6 drops lavender essential oil

4 drops frankincense oil (or replace with four more further drops of lavender oil)

2 tbsp witch hazel

7 tbsp boiled, cooled water.


Small jar with lid (or a small bowl and spoon)

Small funnel

Recycled old perfume jar or small spray bottle.

Muslin baby cloth


Place the oils and witch hazel into the jar, put the lid on and shake to disperse the oils.  Then add the water, replace the lid, and shake again to combine the ingredients before using the funnel to decant the liquid into the spray bottle.

*before using essential oils, check that it is appropriate for your own family.  For example, Lavender is not recommended during pregnancy, and is often cited as toxic for cats.

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