Living in South Florida, we are no strangers to hurricanes, thunderstorms, and tropical storms. Hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30, with peak hurricane season in late summer and early fall. Many of us follow preparation guidelines and have hurricane supplies stocked and check our supply just before the start of the hurricane. We have checklists for preparation in the event of a hurricane heading our way.
What happens, though, when you have an individual with autism? Hurricane preparedness and preparation may look a little different. You may want to start your preparation earlier or even have additional items in your supplies. Keep reading to learn how to hurricane prep for individuals with autism.
Create a Disaster Plan
It is recommended to have a disaster or emergency plan in place for your family.
Make a List
In addition to the list of supplies you probably already have, make a list of things you may need for the individual with autism. Depending on each individual, the things needed will be different. Some examples are:
- Headphones if the individual is sensitive to noises
- Extra batteries for communication devices if the individual communicates with a device
- Sensory toys or items for individuals who may need sensory stimulation
- Extras of preferred items or toys, especially if these have calming effects
- Charged electronics
- Food and snacks for individuals that may be picky eaters or have dietary restrictions
Communicate ahead of time what a hurricane is at a level the individual will understand. You can use online resources to help you, like this one. Or you can make your own social story to explain what a hurricane is. Include what they might hear, see, and feel.
It is also important to explain your family’s disaster plan—where to go when the hurricane is happening, what they can do and not do, and other needed information.
Remember to describe what could happen after—what they might see, hear, and feel. It can be very impactful to see the aftermath of a hurricane, even if it is a lower category storm.
Teach the individual what to do before, during, and after a hurricane based on your family’s disaster plan.
Depending on the level of the individual, it may be necessary to teach where to go for help or who to call if the phones are working.
Teach anything else that may be helpful before, during, and after a hurricane. Some examples are how to put on their headphones if they use headphones, how to turn on and access electronic devices, where supplies are, or how to use the bathroom.
Remember, we want to teach skills first when the individual is in a positive learning space and then practice.
Practice your disaster plan as if there was a hurricane.
If possible, play the sounds the individual may hear during an actual hurricane. This can help to increase tolerance and lessen potential challenges in the event of an actual hurricane.
Store and Label
Store all the items you may need for the individual with autism in a container along with your hurricane supplies.
Don’t forget to label the container so it is easy to find.
More Information and Resources
Schedule a free consultation with us so we can better assist you with your preparation or to find out how we can create a plan for your child or family member.
The Autism Society of America also provides information on preparedness websites, which includes free downloads for people with disabilities.
Remember to stay informed and follow local and emergency guidelines before, during, and after a hurricane or major storm.