As a parent, if you have or know someone with a child that has autism, do you know how to approach disaster preparedness with them in mind?
Many websites giving information for emergency preparedness don’t consider the needs of those with disabilities. It is easy to think that one plan fits all but that is not the case. Many emergency plans assume that everyone in the home can walk, talk, follow directions and move quickly. This leaves those with any disabilities out.
We want UK Survival Guides to be about safety and survival for EVERYONE and we believe that it is very important that we also cover articles for those that do have disabilities.
Disasters are happening all over the world and can often come with little to no warning and require quick, decisive action. It is no good thinking, “well we will just wait and see what happens and we’ll take it from there.” This kind of thinking is dangerous and can sometimes prove to be fatal.
Whether a person has disabilities or not, certain needs such as food, water, and shelter remain the same, but for those that have children with autism, there are extra challenges that need to be addressed.
- What if there is a blackout and your child has a tremendous fear of the dark?
- What if your child has severe food sensitivities but you’re unable to obtain or prepare food?
- How can you balance meeting the needs of your autistic child while keeping your entire family safe?
As you start to think about the challenges that you may face, more and more questions will start to arise that you will need to address. It may start to feel overwhelming but you can make it more manageable by breaking the challenges into small, easily doable steps.
Maybe one of the hardest challenges after a disaster is trying to keep routine and comfort in mind but it will you to avoid meltdowns and other possible delays.
3 Tips for Disaster Preparedness for Those with Autism
When addressing the needs for a family member with autism, you need to focus of the following three areas:
One of the most important points in any crisis situation, is clear communication. However, the uncertainty and heightened sensory input of a disaster can often make it an incredibly difficult task for a child with autism to identify themselves to anyone offering assistance.
To help avoid any unnecessary frustration, a medical ID card or even a laminated ID card can help to save valuable time. Almost everyone nowadays has a smartphone which is also another good way of storing personal and medical data.
You need prescriptions for most medications that are needed on a regular basis so it is important that you speak with child’s physician to discuss your emergency plan and see how they can help. You need to find out how you can get an emergency supply of essential medicines in the event of a disaster. This is something that needs to be done well in advance of you ever needing to use it.
If evacuation orders are given for your area then you would need to contact a pharmacy near to where you are going to be heading and advise them of the situation. If ordered to evacuate then it shouldn’t be too hard as they will have heard of the disaster and will more than likely be getting plenty of calls. To aid any medical personnel or first responders, be sure to list all required medications on the medical ID options that you choose.
Nobody would like to have to think about being separated from a family member during a disaster but it happens so it is best that you give a good amount of thought to it now. If you have a family member with autism that tends to go off on their own or run away, during a crisis, the chances of this happening will increase. More than likely, it will happen when you are distracted with other tasks that need your attention.
It helps if you can establish a support network of local friends and family. It’s also a good idea to participate in a local Search and Rescue drill with your child before an emergency occurs.
You can find a more detailed list of disaster preparation tips in FEMA’s Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs report.