06 Jan Tips to cope with loadshedding in the autism household
South Africa and power outages go hand in hand and it is frustrating for each and every person affected by it.
Millions of people are left without electricity on an almost daily basis, business’s are struggling, food is being thrown out, appliances are breaking from power surges not to mention the cost of alternative power and how this is affecting the average person on the street BUT for the Autism Parent the problem with power outages can be so much greater than the obvious.
Children with Autism have very specific traits or characteristics and many of the autism traits are also the cause of major meltdowns and or anxiety attacks during load shedding or power outages.
Let’s have a look at some of the autism characteristics that may come into play during loadshedding:
- Their environment;
- Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have difficulty with changes in routine;
- Many Autists have Sensory Processing Disorder and struggle with noise, light, sounds, smells – in a nutshell they can have unusually strong reactions to a variety of situations related to their five senses
- Repetitive and/or restrictive behaviors;
- Unusually intense and prolonged emotional reactions;
Coping with power outages in the Autism household is therefore not just essential but it also needs some planning and capital investment.
Make your home Autism-friendly for loadshedding days:
- “Light” in the house is essential for the autistic child. Different colored lights can affect the mood of the child and the lack of light can cause depression and anxiety – so your first step is to ensure that the house is well lit during a power outage. Also remember that children with Autism may not see danger so make sure that the source of light that you are putting in place is not one that can cause harm to you or your family. Please stay clear of candles or even gas lights. I personally would recommend rechargeable lights, torches, inverter powered lights or even battery powered lights (cost would play a big deciding factor);
- “Noise” – auditory sensitivities are very common amongst people with autism spectrum disorder so take this into consideration when you want to invest into a generator. Ask yourself: “how does my child cope with noise?” For those families that have children with noise sensitivities please rather look at going the inverter route. Whilst inverters are not entirely silent they are most definitely easier on the ear (even for us Neurotypical people);
- “Smell” will also come into play here because diesel has a very distinctive smell and it is well documented that children with autism experience smells more intensely that their typical peers do. So be mindful when you are installing a generator onto your premises.
- “Food” is another factor that your would need to take into Account whilst making your home autism friendly during power outages. A person with autism may be very sensitive to taste, color and The textures of foods. They may in fact eat only a small variety of foods so make sure you are able to prepare your child food of choice. Some children will only eat fried food, or grilled food, cold food and/or slippery soft foods… Consider “gas” options for food prep. They are relatively cheap and easy to use. If you have gone the generator way then make sure the generator is strong enough to to power at least your microwave oven and/or kettle.
- “Entertainment” – a television can be replaced with a laptop as long as you know that the laptop or iPpad’s battery life will not be a problem and with 4 hours power outages they often do become problems. Make sure you have an external battery supply of some sort to keep your child’s technology up and running.
- “Routine” – this does not need any capital investment. Keeping your child’s routine the same during power outage is most probably the best advice I can give any families living with Autism in South Africa.
Last but not least – keep the mood in your home as “same” as possible. We know that power outages (loadshedding) in South Africa can cause havoc with traffic and workflow. Power outages cause stress and anxiety in most of us which in turn affects our moods.
Because a child with autism does not always understand social communication and because they are unable to read others’ expressions keep this in mind at home. Understand that your child will not understand you mood change, or you anger, raised voice or aggressive body language. You being irritated about the power situation won’t help your child on the contrary it will most likely have the total opposite effect.