Prepping for Your Loved One with Autism: Basic Needs
By Jenny Jayne
We are still in the height of hurricane season as I write this in August of 2019. In the last few days, meteorologists updated the season to “more active than average” after an extended period of “less active” predictions for the Atlantic Hurricane Season.
I did not know they could change the predictions mid-hurricane season. Lesson learned.
Like a lot of people in the Deep South USA, I’m preparing my family for Grid Down due to potential hurricanes. There are lots of families in my area who prep for tropical storms, flooding, and hurricanes. However, my preps will look a bit different from the average preparedness kit.
The reason I may prep differently from the average prepper enthusiast is because I have children with special needs. My boys are two and seven years old and have Autism Spectrum Disorder. When I prepare for a disaster, I have to take their special and very specific needs into consideration. By writing this, I’m hoping to not only give a little bit of a fresh perspective on prepping in general but also some insight on how to prep for your loved ones if they happen to have special needs.
Here’s a little information about autism.
First, I’d like to share a little bit about Autism and how it affects my children. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a start.
Autism is a “spectrum” disorder, meaning the Autism diagnosis looks different for each individual affected by it. The saying goes, “if you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.”
Due to Autism, my 7-year-old child has gross motor limitations. This means that movement of his arms and legs is not always as coordinated as someone who is neurotypical (does not have an Autism diagnosis). It’s harder for him to do basic everyday things such as walking any kinds of distances, running, and picking things up. The same kind of limitations and challenges apply to him for fine motor skills. This has to do more with things like writing or picking up and using smaller objects like forks.
Both children have a limited concept of danger. This means that they do not understand that walking into a busy road might get them killed or that fire will burn if they touch it. They also elope, meaning that they can run away from caregivers and into dangerous situations and areas.
They have limited verbal ability. This means that they are not able to communicate in the same way that neurotypical people can. It’s very difficult for them to understand what they are feeling, be it pain or emotion. Then, it is even more difficult to express their feelings to an adult who can help them. Making their wants and needs known is a challenge every day. They use a combination of picture cards, spoken words, and sign language to communicate with us.
They have sensory processing disorder. This affects their ability to register and understand what they see, hear, and touch. They have trouble tolerating loud noise. This disorder also affects what they are able to comfortably eat.
Considering all of the above issues that come with an Autism diagnosis for children, I needed to make sure that my kiddos would be safe in a Grid Down scenario. Since hurricanes are the most common natural disasters in my area, I tackled this preparation first.
Preparing for the Basics
I am by no means an expert. I’m just a concerned mom who has been prepping for three years. I started prepping for disasters after my second child was born and then subsequently diagnosed with Autism.
The bare minimum in the preparedness world is Food, Shelter, and Water. Going off of this basic idea, I considered what my children would need. Here is what I came up with:
With sensory processing disorder, my children’s safe foods are few and limited. This is the result of a lot of factors that include everything from texture to color. Each child has a short list of 8-10 foods that the will reliably eat on a day to day basis. I had to look at these foods and figure out what I could do to make sure at least some of their “safe foods” would be available should we be unable to get to the grocery store. We also planned for alternate means to cook that food.
Shelter can encompass a wide variety of things, everything from your home, your tent, or your clothing. In this case, as we would prefer to “bug in” rather than “bug out,” I’ll be focusing on our home. “Bugging out” is complex enough to warrant an entirely separate series on “bugging out with special needs children.” I’ve done it. It is not a fun experience.
Since we plan on staying in our home for hurricanes as long as it is safe to do so, we have a few things in place for the kids. Since we will have no air conditioning after a hurricane knocks out power, we plan to spend time in our back yard and in our home with the windows open to the fenced back yard. We have no screens on our windows, so we will put wet sheets over the open windows to keep the house cooler. There are two large trees that keep our house and yard in the shade for most of the day.
Our children drink a half-and-half combination of apple juice and water. I keep us stocked with at least a week’s worth of apple juice and clean drinking water. They also drink from straws better than an open cup. With the heat that commonly comes after a hurricane, we want to keep them well hydrated. We keep disposable cups as well as disposable and also reusable straws in the house.
I hope that these bare minimum basics are enough to get your started thinking outside the box either for special needs prepping or prepping in general. I’ll be expanding on these topics in further articles as well as addressing more of how to prepare your special needs loved ones for before, during, and after a storm.
Preparing your special needs loved ones for an emergency doesn’t have to be scary. With a little thought and research, it can even be a fun family activity!
I’m also including an online resource for prepping for disabilities: Individuals with Disabilities
Stay tuned as we continue our series on Prepping for Your Loved One with Autism!
About Jenny Jayne
Jenny Jayne is the mother of two wonderful boys on the Autism spectrum and is passionate about Autism Advocacy. She is a novelist who writes Post-apocalyptic fiction and a freelance writer. Her first novel is coming soon to Kindle eBooks near you. Her guilty pleasures are preparing for hurricanes, drinking hot coffee, eating milk chocolate, reading romances, and watching The Office for the 50th time. Her website: https://jennyjayneauthor.wordpress.com/
About the Author
About Jenny Jayne Jenny Jayne is the mother of two wonderful boys on the Autism spectrum and is passionate about Autism Advocacy. She is a novelist who writes Post-apocalyptic fiction and a freelance writer. Her first novel is coming soon to Kindle eBooks near you. Her guilty pleasures are preparing for hurricanes, drinking hot coffee, eating milk chocolate, reading romances, and watching The Office for the 50th time. Her website: https://jennyjayneauthor.wordpress.com/