Although Tropical Storm Debby is now yesterday’s news, the damage caused by the intense storm is still visible to many families across the Southeast. As scary as a tropical storm or hurricane is for the average American family, it is even scarier for a family that has a child with Autism or a related disorder. This is because children with Autism tend to thrive on predictability which is not a luxury when your area is threatened by intense rain, wind and tornadoes. In order for families with children with Autism to be prepared this hurricane season, BCOTB has developed a checklist of items that should be kept in a kit for future weather threats.
The first items that should be kept in the hurricane kit for a child with Autism include any medications (including prescriptions) or supplements that the child takes daily. Similarly, many children with Autism are on special diets so it is crucial to have a supply of these items (preferable non-perishable) in the kit along with beverages that the child prefers.
In addition to food and drinks, it is imperative that the child is made to feel comfortable during this chaotic time by preparing social story that describes in detail (using words and pictures) what the action plan is during a hurricane threat such as where the family will stay, what they will do if they do not have electricity, and how they will help their child deal with loud noises and flashes of light. This should be reviewed with the child at the first threat in order to make the situation more predictable for he/she.
Hurricane Kit Checklist:
- Vitamins and/or supplements
- Prescription medication
- 7-day supply of non-perishable food (gluten free casein free, if needed)
- 7-day supply of water or preferred beverage
- DVD player with favorite DVD’s
- Comfort toy (i.e. stuffed animal or blanket)
- Noise cancelling headphones
- Hurricane/Storm social story
- Preferred toys/activities
- Sensory items
- Pad of drawing paper
- Hurricane social story
- Child’s own lantern/flashlight
In order to keep the child entertained during a hurricane threat, the kit should include a DVD player with the child’s preferred DVD’s as well as their comfort item (blanket or stuffed animal), and preferred activities. Remember, there may not be electricity, so it is important to also pack items that do not require an outlet and to charge items that use a battery.
With an intense storm comes loud noises and unpredictable flashes of light. Therefore, noise cancelling headphones may be a good option to minimize the unpredictable noises while sensory items (playdoh, “squeezy” balls, bean/rice box, etc.) could distract the child from the visual stimulation.
Since children with Autism have difficulty with unpredictable situations, especially those that may be overwhelming to their sensory systems, it is important that families that have children with Autism prepare for this Hurricane Season by putting together a hurricane kit for them. It should include the items listed above as well as any specific items that they may require on a daily basis. If you are prepared this hurricane season, you and your family will feel a bit more relaxed when bad weather strikes.