Autism and Natural Disaster Preparedness: A Comprehensive Guide

In moments of adversity like natural disasters, the vulnerability of specific groups amplifies. Children and adults with autism often grapple with added challenges during these times. Their reliance on routines and the predictability of their environment means that drastic changes can be particularly jarring for them. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey – a devastating force that disrupted the lives of millions in Texas – the need for tailored support for those with Autism becomes even more evident. Here, we delve into practical steps and resources that can assist in navigating such challenging scenarios with a loved one on the autism spectrum.

When a disaster strikes children and adults with autism will need extra support and assistance. We are currently experiencing one of the worst disasters in Texas history with hurricane Harvey. Millions of people have lost their homes and are having to make plans for adjusting to a new normal after this natural disaster. If you have a child or a family member with Autism, you know that it can be extra important to take precautions, especially when it comes to communication and understanding of the situation.

Children with autism may face additional challenges in the face of a natural disaster. A natural disaster will make a routine impossible and predictability is not something we can expect during a natural disaster. Their routine will be disrupted, they may even have to find a temporary housing situation if it comes to the worst. Here are some ideas you can implement to help ease their minds before, during or after the event:

  1. Discuss the possibilities of natural disasters 

If you live in a disaster prone area, try to take some time to discuss what can happen and what your child should do in the case of a natural disaster. We have included some free visuals that you can download to support this conversation.

  1. Have a action plan ready

You may want to create a print out with a plan to what to do in the case of a natural disaster that you can attach to the refrigeration and your child may be able to follow the plan in case you are not around to support.


  1. Discuss possible vocabulary that your child may need to use or will hear during natural disasters.

Many of the words that are used by TV hosts on television during announcements for natural disasters may not be familiar to your child. Vocabulary such as “tornado watch” or “Tornado warning” may be new and may need to be discussed with your child. Feel free to download one of our vocabulary visual supports to use.


  1. Discuss general safety for specific disasters

Depending on the region you live, you may be prone to certain disasters more than others. Children and adults with disabilities may be unaware of what is safe and what is not for certain natural events.

  1. Provide opportunity to talk what is on TV

While you and your family may be safe, certain natural disasters will consume every minute of news on television. Children with disabilities may be worried that certain events, even if thousand of miles away may affect them. Use visual support to help ease their anxiety about situations seen on the news.

Checkout this free resource by “I am safe” book by Ms. Gardenia Speech room.

  1. Create an opportunity to talk about the situation of others

Natural disasters also pose an opportunity to help children develop empathy for the lives of others affected by a tragedy. You can create visual support to help children understand how others might be feeling during a time of terrible loss and difficulty.

At time when disaster strikes, children and adults with autism may need a form of communication. You can download our free emergency communication here:


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