In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters such as the current floods in Texas.
The upending of normalcy during the worst tropical weather system ever to hit Houston is particularly hard on those with special needs, and disability advocates and families are working to help them cope.
The Autism Society of Texas has providers from Austin, as well as partners in Clear Lake and north-central Houston, heading to shelters to offer resources and support, executive director Suzanne Potts said.
The organization is working with FEMA and the Red Cross to assess needs. What's en route: sensory-support bags containing stuffed animals, fidget toys, weighted blankets, earplugs and noise-canceling headphones, notepads and crayons.
"There's an overwhelming need for saneness," Potts said. "A sense of consistency and creating a routine are critical."
The Red Cross has asked for respite care and behavioral-intervention guidance for those struggling to adjust to the crowds, noise and lighting at shelters, including the George R. Brown Convention Center, Potts said. Her outfit has advised creating a dimly lit quiet space, if possible, and posting a visual schedule like that many people with autism rely on to know when meals will be served, for example.
The Autism Society also is distributing H-E-B and Walmart gift cards to anyone displaced by the storm - handy for those with dietary restrictions.
Potts suggested those at shelters find other special-needs families for comfort. And whether at a shelter or home, Potts, a licensed social worker, offered caregivers this advice: "Focus on the here and now - don't look too far forward or too far back … Manage your own self-care. Take a walk if it's safe