Hurricane Sandy, and the Autistic Child

As difficult as the past few days have been for “regular” families with “normal” children, they have been about ten times more difficult for those of us who have Autistic children. Change does not come easily to the Autistic child. Times of natural disaster bring that change in multiples.

As Hurricane Sandy approached, I flashed back to last year’s flooding, which was caused by a different natural disaster. During that time, my little boy and my husband were stranded together about half an hour to an hour away, depending upon the traffic at certain times. 

It doesn’t seem to be all that far away, but it might as well have been an entire continent. None of us were completely at ease ’til we were back together.

This year, at least we were together. We had an idea of how things might be. We were as prepared as we could manage.

On Sunday night, the school system cancelled school for Monday. On Monday, things got increasingly worse with the weather. 

By 7:30 or 8:00 that night, our power went out. Cameron, who is accustomed to watching television from 7:30 to 8:00, and then having me come in and take the television ’til I go to bed, was quite thrown. 

He freaked out a bit and was quite agitated. We went to bed early, but he took a very long time to fall asleep. He was in a bit of a defiant mode. He spoke from the darkness after his father had fallen asleep.

“You think my eyes are closed, but I’m laying here with them open.” 

I got up to get something from the kitchen. Along the way, I said, “Well, you’d better get them closed, or when I come back, you’ll wish you’d closed them.”

On Tuesday, I didn’t have to work. This was a good thing, because the continued lack of power was really upsetting Cameron.

He woke up at the regular time, stating that he had to go to the bathroom. I told him to take his Green Lantern light with him, as we didn’t have lights on yet. 

He got quite upset. He said, “Well, then I’m not going.”

I told him to get his daddy’s flashlight and look for his light. He got it and looked, but the need for the bathroom grew too intense before he could find it. I followed him to the bathroom and held the flashlight for him, so he could see to go.

When he was finished, he ran back to his bed and covered his head with his blanket, refusing to come out. I told him that I had charged the portable DVD player, and that he could watch a movie if he wanted. He stated that watching movies was lame.

I said, “Well, you can play with your toys.”

He said, “I’m not doing it!”

I said, “Fine. You have two choices: Watch a movie or play with your toys.”

At his continued lack of cooperation, I said, “Or you could just stay in bed.” I then walked out and shut the door.

A few minutes later, he walked out to the living room and said, “Okay, I changed my mind. I’ll watch a movie.” I wasn’t a bit surprised. He had played right into my hand.

He watched a couple of movies, and that activity, being so close to his morning ritual of watching his shows, helped to calm him. Neither movie was very long, though, so he was bored within an hour or so.

His whole routine was in a tailspin and he didn’t quite know what to do with himself. We simply tried to keep him calm and entertained as much as possible, without losing our patience. 

This morning, the power still wasn’t on. I was losing patience, and maybe not feeling quite as grateful as I should have been. Stepping into a puddle that was leaking from my rapidly defrosting fridge was pretty much the last straw. Not only was there no power, but my house was absolutely freezing. I had a mini crying spell, got it out, and went on with things.

When I woke Cameron for school, he walked around in his usual morning zombie state. He was okay, ’til he realized that I hadn’t made my bed. He started to make it, and I told him he needed to get dressed. He went into a panic, saying, “But it’s not perfect!” He then began to cry.

I was upset too, but I knew that if I had an outburst, it would make his worse. I said, “I know, Cameron. I’m not happy with everything right now either. Don’t cry. Just don’t cry.”

Sometime later in the morning, the lights came back on, while I was at work and he was at school. When he got off of his van, he looked toward the bedroom windows in a worried manner. 

I said, “Yes, honey. The lights are on.”

His face broke into a wide smile. “They’re on? They’re fixed?”

I replied in the affirmative. He then ran for the house.

He was full of joy and a bit of awe. Things were finally as they were supposed to be.

He is now watching television, jumping around, and shouting with joy. That’s all any parent really wants, joy and contentment for their child.




Posted on October 31, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for you guys. Logan is just the same when the TV gets turned off by his brother or sister. To be without power for so long is a real challenge, especailly with a child with Autism. It sounds like you guys got through it strong enough, and you know that you have grown even closer going through something so tense.

    • As you know, Alex, there is nothing that a parent won’t do for their child. It’s hard to show a calm and reassuring face, when you feel on edge yourself, but we do it so that our children feel at ease as much as possible.
      Things could have been much worse for us. A family lost their eight year old son in this storm. Cameron will be eight in November. I couldn’t help but think that it could have been him.

  2. Glad you all survived the storm ok. Sure sounds frustrating tho, I dont think I would have had as much patience as you. Something about loosing power is unnerving, and an upset child on top of that…glad the power came back 🙂

    • There were times, after a couple of days, when I was about at the end of my patience, but never in front of any of my children.
      When I was at one of my lowest points, the kids were back in school. We had power back by the end of the day, so no one from my family saw how edgy I got.
      I sometimes have to remind myself that my children, especially Cameron, need me to be calm and reassuring. If I have a meltdown, they may do so too.

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