Case Study: Hot Weather and Behaviour

How would hot weather influence behaviour? This seemed apt to post now as the country simmers slowly beneath the summer sun. This post is based on observations and frequency data over a shorter period of hot weather. Whilst analysing the behavioural incident data records a spike in frequency for a specific group of 9 students was noted (the red box on the graph). Now these particular student’s actions do not usually present as challenging so the presence of records for them over this period was unusual.

Heat and Sensory Processing

So working on a hypothesis that the extended period of warmer weather may be linked to this I phoned the parents to ask if they had noticed a pattern previously.  66% reported that they had noted differences in their child’s behaviour when it got hot. Our students are Autistic and many have sensory integration issues. We work hard to facilitate communication but often it is through the child’s actions we can determine their needs. Of course there are so many variables, pollen count, allergies, that a much bigger data set would be needed. Really in depth observations of our students presentation is invaluable here as well.

Linking weather data and Behavioural Incidents

This data is invaluable as a learning tool for us. We are good at picking these changes up but I not seen it captured in our records before. Checking back I saw there was a less pronounced hot weather blip on Monday the 16th. I am surmising this did not have the same effect on the students as it was just a day. The wind was also from a different direction (Lovely sea breeze) although humidity varies across the days so hard to tell (Met Office).

Therefore sleep patterns are less disrupted and tolerance is higher over a shorter period (If anyone can support this with research I would be very grateful). Please add any ideas you have to the comments as well.

Why would hot weather affect behaviour?

Disrupts sleepThunderstorms.Can lead to muscle crampsItchy skinSweatingIncreased ThirstDamp clothingSun in eyes
  • Disrupts sleep
  • Thunderstorms.
  • Can lead to muscle cramps
  • Itchy skin
  • Sweating
  • Increased Thirst
  • Damp clothing
  • Sun in eyes

The regional graph for the temperature is shown here. Obviously the microclimate of an area is more important than the town in general data but I cant capture that retrospectively. Where was the sun shining? Was there air flow in the class room?

Temperature challenging bahviour link].jpg

What can we do to reduce the impact of weather on behaviour?

Future strategies to mitigate effects of hot weather.

Increase frequency of cold water offered rather than requested.
Invest in fans.
Appropriate clothing teaching ideas.
Ice Pops at break.
Water sprays/Water play.
Water/ice sensory activities.
Staff modelling of ‘You look hot’ (i.e. warm) backed up with signs and symbols
Housekeeping staff to be directed to open windows in morning.
Encourage outside play in shade.

If you know someone who struggles to stay cool, can’t tolerate the noise of fans etc try one of these. They stay cool for a long time and although you make them damp they don’t feel too wet or need constant re-wetting like a paper towel. Place on forehead, wrists, back of neck etc.

Please share if you think they may be useful to someone in this heat.

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