• LaKeshia Y. Wells, M.Psych, BCBA, LBA

How To Prepare for Hurricane Season with a Child on the Autism Spectrum

If you live in a city like Houston that’s vulnerable to hurricanes, it’s important to be always prepared. Unfortunately, natural disasters can pose unique challenges for people with autism. In general, loud noises, changes in routine, and non-verbal communication can all be difficult for children with autism. But if your child is also sensitive to smells or light, it could become even more challenging in the event of a natural disaster. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can help your child prepare for hurricane season while minimizing stress and anxiety as much as possible. Read on for some tips on how you can make this hurricane season safer and easier on your child with autism.



Teaching Safety Words and Phrases

Some children on the autism spectrum may have difficulty communicating their needs and understanding the needs of others which can make experiencing a hurricane a bit more challenging for families. By teaching your child some simple safety words and phrases, you can help them communicate their needs and reduce their anxiety during a natural disaster. You can also help reduce the confusion and anxiety of others by educating them on what your child needs during a crisis. Some examples of safety words and phrases include:

  • “I need a break.”: This helps children who are easily overwhelmed or overstimulated. It can be helpful in several different situations.

  • “I don’t understand.”: This can be used by a child who is having difficulty hearing and understanding instructions.

  • “I need help.”: If your child is in a dangerous situation, they need to know that they can ask for assistance.

  • “I want (something).”: This is a good phrase for kids who need help making specific requests when their needs aren’t being met.

Plan for changes to your routine

Routines are very important for children with autism, and hurricanes are guaranteed to disrupt daily schedules. Whether you decide to “ride out the storm” or head to a safer location, it’s important to talk to your child about what to expect. If you know there will be a sudden change to your child’s routine, you can help reduce their anxiety by explaining what is happening and why. If possible, try to avoid sudden changes in the days leading up to a predicted storm.

Have A Communication Plan

If your child has a sensory sensitivity, it’s important to plan ahead for what will

happen if the lights go out during a storm. Communicate with your neighbors about what to do in the event of a power outage, and check with your local utility company about any special plans for dealing with outages. Your child may need a light box, or might need to use a different


sensory stimulation device in the dark. Knowing how to keep them calm and under control in a low-light situation can help prevent injuries and help everyone get through the storm safely and more comfortably.

Install Apps and Tools That Help With Silence

You can install apps on your phone that provide ambient noise to help reduce your child’s sensitivity to silence. You can also prepare low-noise toys to distract your child when silence is too much. It’s also a good idea to prepare some books on tape or CDs with your child’s favorite shows and stories. You can also put on music while your child is sleeping or resting to help prevent feelings of anxiety or restlessness.

Ensure your child is wearing their ID bracelet

Depending on the type of hurricane, you could be dealing with anything from heavy rain to a full-on flood. In the event of a flood, it’s important to know who is in your home and who is safe. If your child is on the autism spectrum and unable to communicate their name, you can get them an ID bracelet. These bracelets can help first responders identify your child and alert you if they are taken to a hospital.

Conclusion

Hurricane season can be a scary and challenging time of year for parents. Luckily, there are lots of ways to prepare and help make it easier on your child. By helping your child prepare, teaching safety words and phrases, and having an effective communication plan, you can help reduce the stress and anxiety of a natural disaster.


Now that you've read all about how to prepare for hurricane season with a child on the autism spectrum, why don't you start preparing for it? You can start by researching your local area for information about the types of hurricanes that occur in your region, and what steps you can take to be safe and prepared.

With a little bit of preparation, you and your child will be better equipped to handle and weather the storm together!
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