Coronavirus: Prepare kids with Autism for Natural and Health Emergencies

How to prepare autistic kids for Emergencies such as Coronavirus, Bushfires, Floods and Earthquakes

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The World is Changing…

Well, I do this video with a heavy heart today !! these are difficult times that we are living. The hurricanes in the US the recent bush fires in Australia, the severe earthquakes in Puerto Rico and now the global pandemic of Corona Virus. And while our politicians continue to dabble on whether global warming, rising temperatures and melting polar caps are a “real thing”.

Here is what we know for sure… The world as we know it’s changing.. And while such forces of nature are well and truly beyond our control, the least that we can do is to ensure that our neurodiverse kids are well prepared for such emergencies– if and when they arrive. And that’s what this video is all about.

In today’s workshop, we share with you how you can help your child with autism stay informed and use simple visual strategies to help them get prepared– so they exactly know how to act. Please watch this video carefully and kindly do the honors of sharing this video with other parents and educators because the next 15 minutes of this video could stand between the life and death of someone, you know or love.

When we’re talking about autism, we’re talking about routines. It’s like having consistency and all of those things that make our life and our child’s life less chaotic. However, life does happen. And preparing for emergency is something we need to think about.

Along with everything else that we are sort of coaching are kids on and building skills, but we have to prepare too, expect the unexpected. And even though our children rely on routines and consistency and it works really well for them, just like it does for us as adults, we still have to prepare. And the more prepared you are, the less chaotic. Um, we have to expect a little bit chaos.

But if we prepare, we can minimize the chaos. So preparing for an emergency, of course for our kiddos who are, on the autism spectrum is a little bit different because we have to think about a lot of different things in terms of getting them ready.

And this year 2020 has been a year of fires or bush fires, earthquakes and hurricanes, you know before the 2019 was over. So it’s something that does happen. So let’s talk about what we can do. 

All right, so there are five basic tips that apply to any emergency and an emergency also includes something like a medical emergency, right? Like a parent or another child has a medical emergency. Um, you’re at the soccer game and we have an emergency, we don’t get to home afterwards and we don’t get to go to therapy afterwards.

So there are all kinds of things that can sort of like happen, throw it into our routines and schedules. So we’re going to talk about some of those things that you can do to prepare for that. And five basic tips is, especially when it comes to an emergency such as, um, fires or earthquakes or hurricanes or floods, is to remember to become and stay informed.

Stay Informed–

I know that we tried to sort of like stay away from the news, you know, take a break from social media, but when we hear or we are aware of something that is in the words, please make sure that you stay informed.

And you guys know and I love to tell little stories to make the point. And I was in new Orleans when we had hurricane Katrina. I did, thought I stayed informed, but I turned off the news because we have hurricanes all the time and woke up the next day, brought my kids to the zoo, did not know why the zoo was closed, realize the hurricane shifted, It was coming our way.

So stayed informed, is very important, so keep in mind, whether it’s social media, friends and neighbors, letting you know what’s up and when you need to make a move or evacuate, Just stay informed.

The other component is to prepare and think about what are the safety things to teach your kiddo, right? So we all know that drill, you know, stop, drop and roll when there’s a fire. But there are other things that we need to think about in terms of keeping our kids safe during an emergency.

So one of the things that, um, I think about when it comes to keeping our children safe and teaching safety skills, it is really, really good too. Practice drill. for emergency, not just a fire but any emergency. And one of the things that I teach teachers and parents is when you do these drills for what we do, in case of an emergency, I always say give a designated spot that is visually clear for your child so that when you are trying to gather things or make a call or arrange for evacuation or call nine one one, it is great to be able to say to your child, go to the red chair, go to the emergency square, go to the kitchen counter and put your hand on the counter.

So if your kids have a clear area of where they need to go, but this area needs to be something that you teach before the emergency. And we’ll talk about how to do that in the upcoming slides. The other component is teaching relevant safety skills using those visual supports.

You guys know how I feel about visuals. Always, always think about what visuals can you have in place. It doesn’t have to be, you know, your whole house covered with wall to wall visuals. However, when we are talking about emergencies or safety, there are visual supports that can be very helpful to get your child to respond, to follow directions, to be safe when you have to move quickly.

And just thinking in terms of when there’s an emergency, all of us get really anxious and so, um, you can imagine a child who has struggles with communication or sensory issues, how that can be a real challenge for them even more to the point where it can lead to them in an unsafe position more than the emergency itself.

A Safety Plan—

All right. Creating a safety plan in practice and this is one of the things that a lot of families just forget to do because we have so many things to do, like groceries, bills, work, you know, car maintenance. I mean, you know, I can make a list of everything we have to do just to get through life however, it is really, really important.

Um, when you have a child with special needs and especially a child with communication or motor planning struggles and really need to have a safety plan and you need to practice it, you need to practice it like you practice anything else in terms of a sport or a music lesson?

You don’t have to practice it every day, but I think it’s great. I usually tell parents if you can pick once a month now, like a third Sunday, every month we would practice our safety plan.

The other tip is to inform family and close friends of your plan. So it’s really great once you have your safety plan to give that to, you know, relevant family members who may be close, not folks far away, right? Maybe technically kind of far away, but someone who could be a point of contact.

Um, not to say you couldn’t let family, that was our way there, your safety plan so they know where you are. But if you want to, you know, close to family and friends and neighbors who you are in contact with on a regular basis so that everybody knows where everyone is and what your plan is because it really is important.

And I can actually, um, I’m sure that those of you in Australia, you know, with the fires, but I can tell you going through hurricane Katrina, that was really one of the biggest issues we had was no one knew where anyone was.

When Where What…..??

So now it’s one of those tips that we really talk about in terms of making everyone aware of what your safety plan is. Alright, So now that I’ve given you like these five great tips, right? Make sense, Common sense, practical.

Yes Stacy, that sounds great !! So when am I supposed to do this and where am I supposed to do this and what am I supposed to do with it? Where do I put it? Like all of those questions, right? It sounds simple, just like a safety plan practice it, do drills, but there’s a little bit more work involved.

Um, so let me help you through some of that work. All right. Planning is key. Planning is key. It really does make a difference. So when we think about planning the things that we are going to talk about that you need to plan for communication, routines, even though the routine may be different, it may change.

You still need to have a routine for your emergency situation. Visual, super super important. Thinking about those sensory components for your individual or your child’s individual needs. Um, planning around essential items.

And I’m going to talk about that because that’s really, really important. And there’s ways that we can plan for that ahead of time without having to rush to do it at the last minute. And planning when you are going to role play and practice and you know, role playing practice can be fun.

Like, make it, you know, put a neighbors involved or other family members and just really make it so that it’s not so tensed, you know, try to find ways to make it , a little bit engaging, a little bit fun, even though it’s serious.

All right. So one of the things that is really, really helpful in terms of planning for emergencies is I’m using social stories and social stories are, you know, visuals that can just be words or stories to help kiddos know what to do in a certain situation.

Using Social Stories

And this is just a really good example or a simple example. If you look at the first one, this is just really a simple way of using a social story to teach your child what’s an emergency and what’s not, so that they’re, um, they’re aware of when you’re really serious and they’re also able to understand it before you make a big deal out of it within the emergency.

And there are several social stories around hurricane season, earthquakes, bushfires. Um, I was talking to one of the moms yesterday and she said that apparently in Australia, they are, um, schools are passing around or sharing social stories in regards or prep stories or prep packets for, um, in case of another bushfire.

So social stories are great too. Just like you do any reading with your kiddo, it’s a leisure way to introduce what to do, what to expect, um, to your child and communicate that so that when it does occur, when you are practicing in role play, they have sort of something to attach it to, right?

There’s already a foundation because this is just stories of visual and if your kids are older, sometimes you could just use words. All right? So visuals are essential, especially when you are thinking of possible medical emergencies.

Um, there are a lot of things that move fast. A lot of things that, um, our kiddos have to endure during a medical emergency, even if it’s not them just watching a family member or a sibling. So doing social stories or having visuals that show simple things that we don’t think about, right?

Like you’re going to feel a pinch or she’s going to hold your arm if somebody is going to take blood or hold another family members arm. This is just a basic example, but it is an example that I pulled because this is something that we don’t think about as, oh, it’s not really something I’m think about showing our child of someone holding their arm, either taking their pills or taking blood, whatever it is that they’re doing.

But it is important for our kids too, know what to expect. So because we can’t predict emergency, which is why it’s an emergency, we use visuals, social stories to demonstrate and show this so that our kiddos have a foundation and they are prepared and it has been communicated to them beforehand.

And if you, have an opportunity, which I’m probably sure it’s not always the case to pull that social story with you on the way to the emergency. But that’s not always possible. So that’s why we want to, um, you know, do activities with our kids.

Use those social stories just in case. It’s like anything else. We plan, we prepare just in case and we hope nothing happens. One of the things that is really, really important to show kiddos to talk about is what the entrance to an emergency room looks like, especially if kiddos are just used to going into a doctor’s office.

Sometimes, um, that, you know, the difference of the doors opening, mostly emergency rooms have those doors. That is something that’s really important for kids to have that social visual input about beforehand.

So it’s not something I want you to talk about as if, Oh my gosh, we’re going to have an emergency, but just read storybooks. Right. Um, there are visuals or video models on YouTube as well. However, I really really like using real pictures for emergency vehicles in hospitals.

So even if you can just take snapshots of your local emergency room door and do a social storage just to talk about during your role play, use real pictures if you can, because I think it helps kids when it comes to the emergency vehicles because the emergency vehicles do look different and each place.

All right. Communication, communication, communication. I cannot stress how important it is to grab, put someone in charge as a part of your plan.

To grab the child’s communication device, PECS book. Um, you know, make a portable visual. I think I posted Oh, sorry, I think I posted a video on the autism 360 about preparing for the holidays and making sort of a portable, um, visual schedule.

So you know, maybe put that together to have in your emergency prepare pack and if you are using a lanyard of visuals, have that ready as well. Have an extra set. But the thing that I want you to get from this slide is it is really important for kids to have their method of communication with them during emergency because we don’t ever want to take away their communication method, whether it’s a device or pictures or you know, using the lanyard for you to communicate to your child. So that’s one of those things that when you are making your emergency plan, when you are role playing, put someone in charge of that, right?

Whoever it is that you can assign to in the household. Whether it’s a sibling or whichever spouse. Um, if you can, you know, it’s hard sometimes to have an extra set because you know, devices and pecbooks are not something that you can, um, just have, but maybe you could make of the device or core boards from their pecs laminate and keep that in the emergency bag just as a backup.

But I always think about those communication devices certainly being left or forgotten in an emergency. And it’s always great if you assign someone to grab it and that’s their role during an emergency, then you more than likely will not forget it, especially if there is like a flood or a fire because then you have to wait. All right. My other favorite, favorite thing for you to have is your grab and go sensory pack.

Basic Sensory pack–

And this is just a basic sensory pack, but of course a sensory bag will look different for every child. Not every child needs a chewy. So I encourage all of my parents just to have, not even as, just a major emergencies.

It is always great to have a bag or a backpack in the car or somewhere near the front door to grab on your way out. Or if you have something that you can keep in the car as well, any emergency or you know, a sensory bag.

It’s just really, really important. I mean even when it’s something, let’s just say that you are not personally experiencing the emergency but you are in traffic due to an emergency accident. Having that sensory bag is really handy.

Um, if you are an emergency yourself grabbing that sensory backpack and you have to evacuate is really gonna come in handy. Really will come in handy when you are evacuated or in a shelter. Um, I mean there are so many stories that we have all heard on social media, on shore about families that are sort of stuck in a shelter situations during a major weather emergency.

So just have a bunch of, you know, cheapy things in the backpack and doesn’t have to be fancy. Just something that you can grab and go or keep in the car because it can be a lifesaver.

Essentials…..

All right, essentials. I left this for last because I really, really want everyone to think about putting this together. Like, make a goal, stick up this together in the next four to six weeks. It is super, super important to have copies if not the actual, but at least copies of your child’s medical records, their evaluation, um, medication prescriptions.

A lot of times we have in our app now, which is really great. Any, um, important school documents and any other documents in regards to custody. Um, you know, um, anything legal. I always encourage parents to make a copy and just have that in your emergency bag because it is one of those things that if you have to evacuate, if you cannot go home immediately, those are things that can, can make a difference to whether or not a child is getting something they need right away or having to wait.

And so just thinking about that and for all of the kids, um, one of the things that I really, um, you know, it’s really important to how those evaluations and medical records and medications, um, as well as, you know, in the States we have an IEP and um, you know, for me this is really something that is very important because it was one of the lessons learned.

Um, hurricane Katrina in terms of parents had no documents of their children’s anything. So all the kids with special needs, no one knew what I needed even if the parents did, they didn’t have it on paper. So think about having copies of things and you know, what’s so great now that we have technology, you can scan PDF in your phone so you don’t even have to have it in your backpack. Um, you can just scan it.

I know for confidentiality either, probably some apps around that. You do that, but it is a great way to back up on documents too. You can put them in your phone. Okay. All right. So documents are going to follow. And this is not something I normally do.

However, I really felt that this particular topic, needed a little follow up, um, in terms of, some things that will help you implement the strategies that I talked about. So what I have committed to doing is putting together a little packet, um, for everyone, and I am going to send that to Stephanie and Stephanie will send that out to everyone who participated.

 

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