Sensory Friendly Guide to Hurricanes

A little humor to go along with the stress and mess of Hurricane Irma!

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By the fifth and sixth of September, most Floridians were in serious Hurricane supply and stock up mode.  It went from a calm and fun Labor Day weekend to a straight havoc and mayhem!  Monday, no work and holiday.  Tuesday, everyone is buying gas, plywood, and water!  EVERYONE!  By Wednesday and Thursday there are no resources left, everyone has evacuated South Florida and we get updated news that now Irma will be shifting westward.  Thursday evacuations orders go out for zone A in our county.  Things continue to deteriorate as more people leave the state, buy a ton of resources and attempt to protect their homes.  Saturday morning we get evacuations orders and by the  noon and four PM  updates on the path of the storm, we decide that it would be best to drive our family to Orlando.

My overall observations about the impact of a major hurricane on my child with autism.

  • He was very observant.
  • As the storm came closer and his daily schedule changed, his anxiety/nervous energy increased.
  • He was very well-behaved in the rush and worry of the storm.
  • He was exhausted and volunteered to nap during the day.
  • He didn’t understand why he couldn’t go to the pool on the days before the storm.
  • After the storm, he was verbally requesting to go HOME.
  • He was thankful to return to school and his routine.

I read several blogs and articles about what to do to prepare your child for the storm and even saw that USF-CARD had created a story board about hurricanes.  I thought that the information was really good, I did think that my child was a little too young and non-verbal to even try to go over and explain to him what was going on.  His intuition is very strong and he knew that he was not doing his regular routine.  So, here are some things that I thought helped my son with autism.

  1. We looked for opportunity to give information that was relevant to his requests or demands.
  2. We talked to both our children at the same time, so that my daughter could ask questions and he could hear her and my response.
  3. We used words and descriptions he would already understand to talk about the hurricane.  We called it a big storm, used words like windy, very windy, rain, lots of rain, big puddles, thunder, and anything that the kids already know about weather.
  4. We only went to places that the kids knew and had already been.  We kept him out of the stores that were really busy and evacuated to family homes to stay safe.
  5. Find routine in some activity or day schedule. Even if it is with how you eat or take showers (maybe not showers if you don’t have hot water!)
  6. Give lots of hugs and reassurance.


After the hurricane, #irmasurrivors ,we are still having to explain what happened.  The kids are asking if a big storm is coming when they see clouds in the sky.  They are asking if they have to go stay at grandmas or aunt Ne’s again.  They really did experience a major event that will take time to recover.   We hope to never have to do that again but in case we do, try some tips that are for the little guys or more non-verbal ASD kids.

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