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EPW 2009 - Emergency Planning and Autism

Laurissa Anyas-Weiss, content producer

May 4, 2009 — Planning for an emergency is hard for any family but what if you have a special needs child to consider. Emergency planning becomes more important and more difficult.

Emergencies are particularly difficult for autistic children who can be very rigid around change. Sudden changes in their routine can bring on serious anxiety.

Being moved to a shelter surrounded by lots of noise and unfamiliar faces can cause autistic children to significantly change their bahaviour. They can withdraw into themselves not answering to their names or not being able to answer important questions.

Emergency situations are stressful for everyone but for parents with a special needs child it can be overwhelming. Especially if there are other children to care for as well.

Putting together an Emergency Kit is important but customizing it to accommodate the special needs child is essential. Many autistic children have strict dietary needs and could not cope with traditional 'non-perishable' foods found in many emergency kits.

Adding toys, books or games that a special needs child might find comforting while surrounded by strangers will help to make the transition from home to emergency shelter less stressful.

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