EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

To our families,

 

We know so many have had their worlds changed with the tornado that came through on 12.10.2021 and many of our ASD families are thrown-off and out of routine on top of everything else. As our community rallies around each other, we want to know specific areas of need that our families on the spectrum may have that may not be fulfilled elsewhere right now.

 

If you have not been affected and want to help or see a need you can fill, come alongside us as we support each other! To all of you we have already seen supporting eachother from the smallest needs to the biggest, THANK YOU! Thank you for being the hands and feet of love, for jumping in to help, for being there for one another, we are so proud to be a part of this community!

 

Website: https://www.familiesonthespectrumky.org

email: info@familiesonthespectrumky.org

Link to the private group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1378982849039845

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/familiesonthespectrumky/

Donate: Paypal

 

We will get through this together, no need is too small!

FOTS logo 2022b copy.png

NATURAL DISASTER RESOURCES

Planning is an important part of any family affected by autism's daily routine, but is even more important when it comes to being prepared before, during and after any type of natural disaster. The following tips to assist families with creating emergency preparedness and response plans have been adapted from Autism Speaks resources, recommendations from Ready.gov, FEMA, and the RedCross.

Contact the Autism Response Team via phone or email. 

Hurricanes and other natural disasters can be difficult for people with autism. Sesame Street has put together this video and guide for families following a natural disaster:

 

Basic Preparedness Tips:

  • Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.

  • Put together a disaster supply kit (flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, critical information) if you need to evacuate.

  • If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.

  • Make a family emergency communication plan.

  • Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city, or county name and the word "alerts".

  • FEMA's Preparedness Timeline provides a 36 hour timeline with tips on how to prepare.

Developing a Disaster Preparedness Plan:

It is a good idea for every family to have an emergency plan in place to know what you would do during a crisis or natural disaster. Autism Speaks funded the creation of the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Guidebook, which can help you create a family communication plan, keep your emergency contacts organized, and share more information about your child's special needs.

 

Evacuating your home - some important things to remember:

  • Call the Red Cross prior to evacuating to ask which shelters accommodate people with special needs. Let them know your child has autism and fully explain all of your specific needs. Ask if there is a secure room your family could stay if your child wanders.

  • Remember children and adults with autism may be drawn to water. If you are facing a natural disaster with waters rising this quickly you will want to take extra precautions if you are not fully out of harm's way.

  • If your loved one with autism has a tendency to wander from safety, make sure you have a multifaceted safety plan in place. Click here for Autism Speaks wandering prevention resources you can use to develop a plan to keep your child safe.

  • Remember to bring familiar items that will help your child adjust to their new surroundings and ease the stress of the transition with some of their comforts from home – favorite toys, DVDs and computer games.

  • Make an emergency contact list - even if you have them in your phone, also write them down! Include names and numbers of everyone in your personal autism support network, as well as medical providers, local law enforcement, emergency responders.

  • Make sure your emergency information lists notes any communication difficulties, including the the best way to communicate with you or your loved one with autism.

  • Grab your IEP and any medical records or evaluations you may have on hand. Your IEP is a federal document and can help you settle your child in an alternate school setting more quickly if you have it on hand.

  • Pack any needed Assisted Technology Devices and don't forget the chargers! Just in case record the device name, manufacturer's name & information, model and serial numbers, vendor (Store's/Seller's) name and info, date of purchase and copy of receipt if available, copy of Doctor's or Therapist's prescription if available and contact and funder's (i.e., Medicare, Medicaid, Insurance Co.) name, contact info, & policy numbers.

  • iPads (and other medical equipment) that are used by someone with autism to communicate are covered under medical losses/disability equipment. During the intake call with FEMA, you may be asked about medical devices, and whether anyone is dependent on a computer or other equipment.

  • Pack medicines or special dietary needs. Shipments of new supplies to impacted areas may be difficult or impossible. Bring copies of prescriptions with you or be sure you have refills scheduled with a pharmacy that can access them electronically.

  • If you regularly visit doctors or specialist for treatments or interventions or if you receive regular services such as home health care, treatment or transportation, talk to your service provider about their emergency plans. Identify back-up service providers in the areas you might evacuate to. If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity to operate, talk to your health care provider about what you can do to prepare for its use during a power outage.

  • If you have a service animal, be sure to include food, water, and collar with ID tag, medical records and emergency pet supplies.

  • Quick and unanticipated changes in routine and environment can cause increased anxiety and stress for people with autism. If staying in a shelter bring headphones or earplugs to help with noise. You may also consider bringing a roll of duct tape to place labels, visual support or even lay out visible perimeters of your family's assigned "space" in a communal style shelter.

  • The Autism Speaks Autism Response Team (both English and Spanish speaking) are available to provide information and resources during difficult times. The Autism Safety Project provides information for families and First Responders with information and guidelines for communicating with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in emergency situations.

Adapted from an article by Dr. Peter Faustino and Dr. Andrew Livanis

 

After natural disasters, children are likely very frightened and may need help better understanding what happened. Individuals with ASD tend to be inquisitive, seeking to learn more about topics they are interested in. They may start talking a lot about floods, other natural disasters, death and tragedy. Below are some suggestions to help in processing information for children on the spectrum.

 

Talk to your children FIRST, when possible

It’s important that you identify what they know about the disaster and its aftermath. If asking them direct questions is difficult then listen and observe, so that you can use that as a foundation for discussion. When introducing the issue, start with strategies that would work for all children:

  • Present the facts. Use clear and direct vocabulary. Define the words you use – don’t assume they carry the same meaning.

  • Talk about the situation and how saddened people are due to this misfortune. Explain the emotions that others are likely experiencing, especially those who lost a loved one or their home.

  • Discuss how you and your child can work to make this situation better (volunteering, raising money, making cards, etc.) both at school and in the community. Children feel better if they can do something to help others.

  • Repeat the ways in which your child is safe. Show them safety strategies and explain that those are meant to protect everyone.

  • Monitor your media. News of the tragedy and its aftermath will be dominating the news cycle, so avoid news networks when your child is at home.

 

Communicate in a preferred style  

Some children prefer story-based interventions or pictures to represent a topic. We’ve included a framework below for you to individualize based on your child’s needs:

Something very sad happened and unfortunately many people died and lots of people lost their homes and all of their belongings. 

When a person dies, the body stops working. Many families are sad because they can’t see their family members or friends anymore. Many are sad because their house was destroyed and they lost lots of things that were very precious to them. People cry because they feel sad. It is okay to be sad and cry when someone dies or when they lose their home or their belongings.

  • When someone dies we can say, “I am sorry to hear this news.”

  • When I think of sad things I can (insert preferred activities that the child likes to do that will help them feel better). 

  • I will feel better after some time goes by.

  • I am safe because (insert things that help the child feel safe at home or school).

 

Recognize the process

You may notice that your child begins to talk excessively about natural disasters, death and dying. This may be their way of processing images that they don’t understand - a way to put reality in some sort of order. Research shows that children who are struggling in the aftermath of tragedies like natural disasters may resort to “playing out” or talking about the stress in an attempt to make sense of the insensible.

  • You may want to let your child know that this is a difficult time for all of us, since what happened does not make sense to anyone.

  • Remind the child that there were real-life heroes that helped save the day – the first responders and other volunteers who helped evacuate children and adults and pull them out of the damage, the people who may have let strangers into their shelters to help get them to safety, or the teachers who helped protect the children in school during the natural disaster. Help make these actions part of their narrative, if your child wants to discuss the event so he or she can also focus on the positive.

 

Watch for Changes

Listen carefully and watch what your child does. Breaks in routines may represent his or her method of communicating to you that they are distressed. Don’t be surprised if older, problematic behaviors resurface for a short period of time. Be especially tuned in to changes in eating or sleeping patterns. Changes like these can be a sign of concern. During this time, your child may need more support in their eating and sleeping routines.

If your child continues to exhibit changes in their feelings, thoughts or behaviors (problems with sleeping or eating) for more than three months, it is important that you contact a professional for additional help.

Credit: Autism Speaks

HELPING A CHILD WITH AUTISM DEAL WITH DISASTER