Children with autism and severe weather: Keeping them calm during the storm
AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Eleven-year-old Kamden has high-functioning autism, which causes him to feel anxiety during severe storms.
“He also has some different fluid levels in his brain because of his autism and so the barometric pressure will change how he acts and how he reacts to the storms,” said his mother Tara Koopman.
“He will get extremely anxious, there’s a lot of wanting to know exactly what’s going on so that he can kind of keep control of the situation if possible, but he will get very, very nervous,” said Koopman. “We usually have a lot of distraction techniques.”
But even after Kamden's distracted, lightning and the sound of thunder, tornado sirens and hail can still be scary for him.
“Usually we have to use something like noise cancelling headphones to kind of cancel out the the thunder and keep the doors and the windows closed so that we don’t see the lightning and things like that because there’s a lot of sensory overload with stuff like that,” said Koopman.
To help ease his anxiety, his grandparents even turn off the TV and explain the weather and what's going on the best they can.
“We try to put it as simple as we can, you know, we need to we need to go into this room and take shelter or whatever needs to be done,” said his grandmother Brenda Keaton.
But that didn't stop Kamden from wanting to meet Doppler Dave and learn from the Chief Meteorologist himself.
“It’s really nice having Doppler Dave as a friend,” said Kamden.
When storms get dangerous and its time to take cover, therapists at Amarillo ABA say parents of children with autism should prepare and stick to a routine.
“They can bring lots of sensory objects or a weighted blanket and things like that to the safe situation so they’re not scared anymore. And probably the most important, would be to just practice and prepare for the storms,” said Registered Behavior Technician at Amarillo ABA Kathryn Richardson.
Koopman said it really helps when Kamden knows he can calm himself down.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s from your school or another counselor, just to learn some new techniques and strategies to help the kids be self-sufficient.” said Koopman.
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