By Scott Badesch, Autism Society President & CEO
By now, we have all witnessed the shocking reports of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction in southeastern Texas. Now that the record breaking rain has subsided, families are undertaking the arduous task of rebuilding their lives. The storm’s impact on autistic individuals and families living with autism adds a layer to recovery efforts often not addressed by traditional relief organizations. While we applaud the exceptional efforts of FEMA, the Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, first responders, and other government agencies, we know that the autism community faces a unique set of challenges during these difficult times.
As the father of a now adult son on the spectrum, I know first-hand the effects natural disasters can have on the entire family. We experienced four terrible hurricanes while living in Florida and South Carolina. Each time our son encountered a myriad of challenges due to the storms, including sensory issues as a result of loud noises and loss of routine due to power outages and school closures. We were fortunate; we weren’t forced to evacuate our home. Imagine a family with an autistic child required to leave home and sleep in a shelter with unfamiliar noises, lights, and little space. Imagine constant moving from city to city and with no real sense of what the future holds for your family. Imagine having to relocate because your home is now uninhabitable right before the start of the upcoming school year. This is now is a reality for countless families.
Fortunately for those in Texas impacted by the storm, the Autism Society of Texas is there to help. Upon learning of Harvey’s projected path, our Texas affiliate immediately sprang into action creating a response plan for the storm’s aftermath. Since last Saturday, the Autism Society of Texas has served as a vital lifeline for families seeking information and guidance in preparation for the storm. From dispersing emergency gift cards, holding the hand of a distraught mother to aiding a family seeking temporary shelter, the Autism Society of Texas answered the call for storm victims seeking assistance. Autism Society of Texas Executive Director, Suzanne Potts, continues to advise state and local agencies on how to best respond to the needs of individuals with autism. And I am so very proud of how our nationwide network of Autism Society affiliates, volunteers, and staff mobilized and sent resources to support our friends in Texas. The work is far from over. Right now I am headed to Texas to help our affiliate while they coordinate relief efforts. I will continue to blog about our progress in Texas and hope you will join me in supporting the road to recovery. Please read our Hurricane Relief update to learn how you can help make a difference.