When Hurrican Matthew came ripping toward North Carolina, I did not think much of it. After all, he was not that powerful when he hit the Carolinas. Unfortunately, the wind and rain that came with the storm wound up making us lose power around 2 in the morning on Saturday. The children sensed the change quickly. They woke up and did not go back to sleep until around 4 that morning. I always imagined the power would be restored quickly. It always had been in the past. Instead, we lost power until 2pm on Monday.
Change is Bad for a Child with Autism
The moment he found out we lost power, the cuffs came off. Squeaker simply could not handle the inability to turn on lights, the inability to use the computer, and the inability to control the television. Our neighbors had a generator and we used it to hook up the refrigerator, so we at least had cold food and drinks, but television was out.
Worse, the storm knocked out power across Eastern North Carolina, and we all waited while the people who work tirelessly to restore power drove around to troubleshoot things problem-by-problem. I could not tell my sons when we would regain power. The lack of stability made things difficult and we saw an uptick in aggressive, impulsive behavior. Here’s how we decided to handle it.
As you know, children with autism crave routine and need predictability. Going through a storm and lost power changes the game for them. Life becomes scary, unpredictable, and even intolerable as their routines get disrupted. We did a few things to help him through the Hurricane Matthew.
- Continue enforcing rules. All children crave structure. Even though he encountered difficulties, we still expected him to keep his hands to himself and clean up any messes he made.
- Go for walks. When we lost power, staying in the house became problematic because of the constant reminders that we could not turn on anything electrical. The boys went for walks once the weather calmed down and spent time outside. Luckily, a cold front had moved through, so we merely needed to open windows to cool off the house and them.
- Leave the house if it’s safe. Staying at home sucked. We had nothing to do and it just didn’t work. The flooding in our area was minimal and the roads were passable, so we took the kids out to the store and to the park.
- Lean on friends who want to help. We got several offers from friends with power to come over, take a hot shower, and get some coffee. When we still had no power on Monday and The Manager had to get to work, I did just that. The kids could watch television, play outside, or play with another child. The lights were on. All of those things made going somewhere else more stable for us.
- Keep plenty of flashlights on hand. My children both hate the dark. Squeaker hates it more than anyone. We had multiple battery-powered sources of light to help with this. Between flashlights, lanterns, and dome lights, we had it covered. The boys slept with dome lights in their rooms and Squeaker kept a stockpile of flashlights in his Elmo doctor’s kit. Controlling these lights made things easier for him.
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We Survived Hurricane Matthew
Several people in Haiti lost their lives due to Hurricane Matthew and a few people in our country did as well. Ultimately, the power was the extent of the damage we incurred, aside from the pine tree that took out our back fence. In other parts of North Carolina, the flooding became problematic, closing several roads down and causing sinkholes to appear. I cannot complain about our situation knowing that others suffered much more. We made it through the storm with nothing more than lost power and a broken fence.
For those couple days without power and even today, the early wake-up calls from my son along with the loud screeching made up the worse of it for us. That said, we survived Hurricane Matthew pretty well. We regained power halfway through Monday. My kids were kept busy playing at a friend’s house until we regained power and then we came back home. I had a hot shower and lots of coffee and felt almost human again. We do not have school today, which means less routine, but we have the option of taking one child to the Y for their program, and I may do just that.
Counting our Blessings
As we make it through these days in the aftermath of Hurrican Matthew, we count our blessings. We kept our food. Our house remains undamaged. All of our home appliances are working well now that we’ve gotten power restored. And in the end, we lost power, but only briefly, and thankfully, we had no need for a chainsaw since all of our trees stayed up!
I hope you and your family stayed safe during the storm. Here’s hoping we are done for the season.