As any parent of a child with autism can tell you, you will need to be more prepared even for small things. The idea of preparing for a disaster with an autistic child probably sounds impossible or at least extremely daunting. Have no fear Jamie is here to walk you through our tips.
You will start with the same tools and consideration as you would be preparing for any child. These include the basic survival kit. Create your family’s emergency plan. Now all you must do is add a few special ingredients to better meet your child’s particular needs.
Gather your stuff
It is important to keep all your kits and supplies in a handy location, but that’s not actually what I’m talking about. Children with autism typically have other medical considerations you take into account and having all that information accessible is vitally important. I recommend keeping it with your emergency plan.
Create a form with:
- Names and contact information for all doctors and therapists
- A complete copy of your child’s health records
- List of surrounding medical facilities that offer treatments
- List of all models and serial numbers for all medical equipment List of triggers and helps for behavior issues
Putting this information together with your emergency plan will also help you be more mindful of what to include in your emergency plans and survival kits.
Planning Ahead for a Disaster – Include Your Child
A minor change of plans can cause big, big problems for children on the spectrum. Your biggest tool for these children is preparing them for change in every possible way. Be sure to include your children in your preparations. Involving your child in the process will hopefully ease some of the anxiety and stress for them. As a family, design your emergency plans, have them help plan a menu for the 72-emergency food kit. purchase food and games, load backpacks.
All these things will help children be more mindful of your family’s emergency plan, and also give them a sense of security and safety, during and after the disaster.
I find it especially important to do some drills and practice so when it comes time for the storm its something that’s not completely new to them. The more familiar your children are with the drills, the better your child will handle them when it’s real. This also allows you to ease them into the situation so they do not become as overwhelmed.
To better prepare kids to deal with the reality of a disaster, create as realistic a drill as possible, try –
- a lights out scenario
- make sure you practice any time of day and night
- use different sounds and loud noises
By practicing ahead you can take it one step at a time. Walk through the evacuation routes a few times. Explain how lights will probably go out, allow them to kill the lights and take the familiar evacuation route you have taught them. Practicing also allows you to know what they will have the biggest issues with, be it sights, sounds or movement. This will help you make the proper changes to your emergency plan ahead of time and test them before it is necessary to really evacuate.
Your emergency plan important additions to include.
- Have a buddy that they are familiar with This applies at home and school. They need someone who can help keep them calm(er), explain each step and what is happening, assist them where needed, and provide a comforting, calming, familiarity to focus on.
- Be sure to have the buddy be familiar with your child’s triggers, and how to help them, and that they know the most effective means of communicating with them.
- Take into account their triggers and sensitivities. If sounds set them off, be sure to have headphones close at hand for emergencies. If music is soothing to them, have a prepared iPod ready. Lights = sunglasses, touch = a route that’s less used to avoid bumping into panicked masses. Be creative.
- Remember to include a medical bracelet and register with local fire and police. This will assure that those who come to help in the event of a disaster are as prepared to help your child as you are.
Ideas for your ASD survival bag:
- Food sensitivities and allergies (gluten free for instance) – not just for their bag but for the entire family. You will be living in close quarters and these normally off limit items will be more accessible than ever. This is especially important if their allergies are severe, as contact with allergens could make the situation go from bad to worse.
- It is extremely important that the food and items packed are familiar to your child.
- Sensory needs – headphones, weighted vests (or just encourage them to wear their kit all day), clothing that meets their acceptance.
- Comfort items- these need to be used familiar items and will extend beyond normal comfort items. Silverware and dishes they normally eat with, the same clothes (interchange for a while or wash repeatedly) that they have at home. Your bag needs to be an extension of the home they left.
- Pay attention to your child’s triggers and what helps them cope. Then add these to your bag and the special needs form.
- Entertainment should be based on your child’s favorite things and be varied enough to maintain their attention. Don’t pack things that are too challenging or easy; look for a balance to avoid melt downs. If you HAVE to bring the DVD player pack LOTS OF BATTERIES or a solar charger.
- lighting – this is important for adults as well. Headlamps won’t be considered for them unless they are introduced to them early on. Consider packing Glow Stick Bracelets or necklaces. They are a terrific distraction for kids and help with lighting.
- Luggage tag – Their name, your contact info, and information about triggers and helps if possible. If they get separated from you this will help others be able to find you and help them to be more aware of your child’s special needs. The tag is to remain on their survival kit at all times. if you want to have a medical bracelet type they can wear that would work too.
Remember, YOU are your child’s greatest advocate, and the best one to prepare them for a disaster.