Florida offers its residents hundreds of miles of warm sandy beaches, an abundance of oceans, lakes, and swimming pools to keep cool and thrilling theme parks. But there is a tradeoff to this lush, tropical paradise—hurricanes. And while hurricanes are stressful for anyone living within the cone of trajectory, for individuals with autism, the disruptions in routine and potential for devastating outcomes mean that stress can rival hurricane-force winds.
In the last two months, my 7-year-old autistic son’s entire life has been uprooted. We moved from Orlando to Tampa Bay. In addition to a new home, for him, this also meant a new school, new therapists, new doctors, new friends—new everything. And just as he’s settling into a routine, Ian rips it to shreds.
On Sunday, September 26, 2022, all Floridian’s eyes were on Hurricane Ian as it barreled toward our beloved peninsula. Spaghetti models weren’t in total agreement, but it looked as though the Tampa Bay area faced either a direct hit or, at minimum, would be at risk for tornadoes, flash-flooding, and sustained high winds. Schools closed both allowing families and employees to prepare for the storm and to be used as storm shelters for evacuees.
Our family, along with most of the rest of the state, had only two days to collect hurricane supplies such as bottled water, flashlights, batteries, and nonperishable foods. Additionally, to also make sure we had a month’s worth of prescription medication, install hurricane shutters, collect sandbags, empty the fridge of items that could spoil, do laundry in expectation of power loss, and hit gas station after gas station to fill cars.
While my youngest daughter, my son, and I were stocking up on what little supplies were left at a
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