Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene and People with Autism

As my regular readers know, I have a brother in law with autism.  He lives with my elderly mother in law in the NY Metropolitan area.  Although he is obsessed with the weather and watches the Weather Channel continuously, he is also terrified of heavy rain, thunderstorms, and other forms of extreme weather.

And Hurricane Irene is on the way.

People with autism suffer greatly from natural disasters for a number of reasons.  People with autism (and these are generalities - I don't like to stereotype but I feel I need to here) tend to be very anxious.  They do not adapt well to any change in their routine.  A hurricane-well that is a big change from routine.  Many (not all) find it very hard to communicate - some, in fact, are not verbal.  My brother in law is verbal, but many of his thoughts are locked up inside of him.  And people with autism can be very sensitive to sensory stimulation - hearing, smell, vision.  Combine this with a hurricane, which would provide almost anyone with sensory overload, and you have a recipe for autism disaster.

At this point in time we are hoping a family member who lives a lot closer than we do will be able to stay with my mother in law and brother in law.

Some people with autism can communicate in writing, and do via blogs.  I found this blog post by a person with autism on Hurricane Irene (and this week's earthquake.)  It's interesting.

I don't think my brother in law would say it any better, if only he could.


  1. Okay you taught me something new today. Interesting that weather (energy) has this kind of impact but it does make sense. Will read the other article.

  2. I hope your family stays safe and that your BIL handles the hurricane well. Mostly, I hope it's not too frightening for him.

    Thinking of all of you on the East Coast

  3. Thank you, Bike Lady, for your good thoughts. My sister in law brought my mother in law and brother in law up here earlier today. I'm very relieved that they decided to evacuate.

  4. Good day,

    I'm studying a master in Digital Media at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and I'm writing you to ask for your permission to use the entry titled "Hurricane Irene and People with Autism", published on August 26, 2011 on the blog Ramblin' With AM (

    My graduation project is an interactive map of stories about hurricane Irene. It's intended to motivate people at risk of disasters (such as hurricanes) to start thinking what to do about them now, instead of waiting until they are about to happen, which most people do. The project will show a map with the trajectory of hurricane Irene, and different search criteria to access stories within the map. Those stories can be annotated with comments from other users different than the author's story, in a similar way a blog entry can be commented. In my system though, the intent is to purposefully direct the discussed topic on how to handle disasters taking each story as a starting point.

    One of my graduation requirements is to demo my project to my committee. For that purpose, I've built a database of blog-posts to fill in the system. I'd like to add your story to that database. I can provide an image of the interface if you want to have a better idea of what your story would look like if included in the system.

    If you grant me permission, your entry will be used exclusively for non-commercial and educational purposes while the project remains in its demo phase. If this project is ever used for other purposes different than a demo, your blog-entry will not be included.

    I'd really appreciate if you allowed me to use your experience from Hurricane Irene to make a better project, and potentially help other people in the future.


  5. Hello there,

    I have recently came across this post as seeing this as a referring link to my blog. I appreciate for putting a positive spin to the issue of high functioning autism.

    BTW: I had survived Hurricane Irene, with limited (to no) damage to my house, and I had several anxiety attacks. I thought I was going to experience the hurricane of the century though. Because I had no idea what I was expecting, I had a lot of panic. But I got through it!

    Again, thanks for referencing my blog.


    The Forgotten/Alleged Autistic


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