Autism and Power Outages: Autism Files

It’s been quite windy today and early this afternoon the power went out, I assumed it was because of the high winds. When I called the electric company, their automated message said that the power would not resume for another 3 1/4 hours.

My son had been up for a little while but had just decided to start cooking his egg when everything in the house shut off and there was only silence. When this happens his favourite words are turn it on. He doesn’t really understand what power outages very well and probably doesn’t care to know, he just wants things to work all-the-time. I cannot explain to this to him easily using only the words he would understand. He doesn’t like unexpected changes especially when we can’t give him a definite answer as to when in this example the power might come back on.

Within a few seconds of the power going out the dog started nervously going back-and-forth from living room to the kitchen. He gets very nervous when he hears the smoke alarm beep even when only for a few seconds. And for some reason when that happens often he will stay near our son as if to protect him. Under normal circumstances the dog keeps his distance and doesn’t enter our son’s personal space and that makes him very happy. Keep your distance and I’ll tolerate you. But today he kept following him and that really annoyed him. Anxious dog, annoyed kid!

He had to resort to cooking part of his breakfast on the BBQ side-burner. I got it going and set him up to make his breakfast, but the high winds were blowing the heat away from the frying pan. He wasn’t impressed to be standing in the cold winds waiting for his egg to cook but he understood that the stove wasn’t going to work with no electricity.

No power - breakfast on the BBQ

No power! Cooking breakfast on the BBQ!

Then I couldn’t put the dog outside because of the collar we put on him that keeps him in our yard works together with the underground fence so he can roam freely. No power, it doesn’t work. Our daughter decided that she’d go to her grandparents place down the road to work since they had electricity which was fine. Usually when the dog sees her leave it’s never a problem, unless of course he sees her going to the grandparents home which is within his sight. That’s when he thinks he should be going too. He continued his non-stop back-and-forth even more when he saw where she had gone. As much as he’s supposed to be a family dog, he really is her dog. He misses her a lot when she leaves even if only for a short period of time.

Top that with our son not happy that it was really windy. He always tells me to make the wind stop. He loves watching nature disasters in his movies but it’s a different story when we get a bit of wind.

Our son probably got too much of a taste of a power outage during Ice Storm of 1998. I am sure that got engraved in his mind forever with 19 days of no electricity.

I silently prayed that the power would resume sooner than later. I like it when everyone is calm, happy and doing what they love best, dog included.

All of a sudden… my son joyfully jumps up yelling Alright!!! It’s working!. He was very happy that the power had returned. Seconds before that the dog had just settled down almost 1 3/4 hours later since the power outage, he had laid down on his cushion. When he heard the power return he became all nervous again waiting for the smoke detectors to beep. Then I remembered that I could put him outside which would help him calm down.

Power outages and autism are not always a good blend because it means no tv, no computer, no stove, no lights that work. An unexpected change where there’s no choice or control over the situation isn’t much fun in our son’s case.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for another glimpse into the life of people dealing with autism. It is such an education, Suzanne. Doggy sounds so sweet!
    Yaz recently posted..The Gift of DreamingMy Profile

    • Yaz, our doggy is a real sweetie. I’ll have to post some photos in my next posts when I talk about him. Glad you enjoyed learning a bit more about autism. 🙂

  2. Understanding comes with knowing. I hope you enjoy sharing your son’s journey and your family. A very engaging post. Thanks.
    Sheila Skillingstead recently posted..The Cardinal’s ChoiceMy Profile

  3. Sounds like a stressful chunk of time. I’m glad it was over fairly quickly. I think power is one thing we take for granted and it isn’t until it’s gone that we realize how much depends on it working 🙂
    Michele Bergh recently posted..WordPress – How’d They Do That?My Profile

  4. Barbara Michel says:

    Oh, the stress a power outage can cause! Very interesting to read of your son’s very unique reactions, and the ensuing coping strategies you employ. It seems that so much of handling life’s adversities well lies in our abilities to think creatively in order to adapt. And I know how true that is in all parenting, even moreso with an autistic child! Hats off to you Suzanne!

    • Barbara, you hit the nail on the head there when you said ‘our abilities to think creatively when faced with life’s adversities’. That sure is the case often for us it seems. Sometimes we can’t think fast enough though. But it does force us to get creative which is not a bad thing. Thanks for dropping by Barbara. 🙂

  5. It’s amazing how we take some things for granted. I often think about what I’d do in a crisis. I keep wanting to prepare an emergency kit, especially for my son, but I never seem to get around to it. It’s in times like power outages that I remember that I should get cracking on something like that.

    I completely empathized with this post. I see children at school who don’t deal well with their regular routine being changed. When we can’t explain it so that they understand, it’s really challenging for everyone involved. That’s when we see right into their minds. Things like “wait” and “later” are such difficult concepts for children with special needs to grasp. I’m sure this tests your patience and understanding at the same time.

    Yet, look how you manage just the same. Like Barbara says above, you need to grab your creative hat and FAST!

    Thanks for this glimpse.
    Gabriella recently posted..Shaking to Good HealthMy Profile

  6. Hi Suzanne, I’ve done a blog about crystals in order to promote a blogging friend’s book. If you like the look of it, I’d be grateful if you’d pass it on to those who’d like it, and who would re-blog. But ONLY if you like the look of it. Trying to promote the good things in the universe! Thanks! Here’s the link
    http://yazrooney.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/crystal-healing-and-the-energy-field-a-beginners-guide-by-marion-mcgeough/
    Yaz recently posted..Crystal Healing and the Energy Field: A Beginner’s Guide by Marion McGeoughMy Profile

  7. my youngest son has always been challenged with the same set of triggers
    …..it can be a sticky wicket navigating through unanticipated changes especially.
    I can just sense the tension in your words….I know it well.
    Grateful for the restoration to “normal” as soon as it did.
    I tell John often how awesome it is when he lets himself be curious
    ….try to catch him in the act and really beam when it’s happening.
    I try to model curiosity, too. I wonder if that may be a helpful antidote to
    the rigidity they feel so painfully. I know it helps me yield up the struggle for
    control. Anyway, big love to you and your son, Jennifer
    Jennifer Richardson recently posted..dancing with doodles and daydreams…My Profile

    • Thank you for sharing about your story with your own son Jennifer. I love how caring and supportive you are with him. Praising them when things are going well certainly helps them. All the best to you and your son. xo

  8. I am curious to how you felt during all of this? I know for myself, many times if the energy around me gets chaotic I get swept up in it. It sounds like a challenging time for all of you.
    Amy Putkonen recently posted..The Study of Discipline: Part 6My Profile

    • Amy, too often I do get swept into the chaotic energies. When I feel well balanced it’s usually a non-issue. It is something that I need to bring to the forefront and do more often for myself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Leanne Strong says:

    I have Asperger Syndrome (milder Autism), and I used to be scared to death of power outages. I think it had something to do with something being different from how I was used to. Many people with Autism have a harder time coping with things being different than they are used to, or what they expect. I still startle when the power first goes out, but I am very easy to startle.

    My hometown was also hit by a devastating ice storm in early spring of 2003 (I was about 9 at the time, because my birthday is in early summer), which left many homes and businesses in my area without power for several days. I think my family was without power for almost a week. I was very scared of storms after that, because I associated it with losing power for several days.

    • Bless you for sharing about your journey with Asperger Syndrome Leanne. I really appreciated reading how things can affect you. My son can’t tell me these things, so I really liked hearing how it is for you. It helps me to understand him a little better through someone else. Blessings!!

      • Leanne Strong says:

        You’re welcome! I’m SO GLAD I could help you AND your kid! After all, who better to learn from that someone who is actually living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now, I was born and raised in Upstate New York, so winter weather in early spring is nothing out of the ordinary for me. But this was unusual even for the area where I grew up. I heard most people who lost electricity in the spring 2003 ice storm got their power back on within about 3 or 4 days, but we didn’t have power in our home for almost a week (I think approximately 5 or 6 days). We lived in the woods, so maybe that had something to do with it. We had lost power in our home several times before that, but we usually got it back on after a few hours to several hours. I wasn’t used to being without power for several days.

        Now, the first memory I have of the spring 2003 ice storm is waking up one morning, coming out to the kitchen, and my dad telling me there was no school that day. Now, I am very concrete in my thinking, as many people on the Autism Spectrum are. I was thinking (but I don’t think I actually said this), “DAD, IT’S FREAKING SPRING, SO IT OBVIOUSLY DIDN’T SNOW LAST NIGHT OR THIS MORNING! IT’S NOT THE WEEKEND, AND I’M NOT ON A BREAK! HOW COULD I POSSIBLY NOT HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL TODAY!

        What I sometimes find helps me get over my fears is doing research. I was scared to death of storms and bad weather (and for a while I was even afraid of a small rain shower) for at least a few years after the ice storm I mentioned (early spring 2003), because I was afraid the power was going to go out again. I did some research on storms and weather, and now I’m not so scared. In fact, I’m barely even scared of power outages anymore. I do startle a little bit when I hear thunder or see lightning, but it’s more of a startle reflex than fear. I also startle a little bit when the power first goes out, but again, it’s more of a startle reflex than actual fear.

        • Leanne thank you for sharing more about how you handle storms and what has helped you go be less afraid. I appreciate you sharing what things are like for you. This helps me to understand my son in many ways. Thank you!!

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  1. […] it here. That first day was also an afternoon that caused me a bit more stress than usual with the power outage, but I managed to not allow that to derail […]

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