Calgary

Flood disruptions hard on families with autistic children

Specialists who treat autistic children say those who were displaced by last month's flooding have had a hard time adjusting to the disruption.

Displaced High River family with two autistic boys face added challenge

Specialists who treat autistic children say those who were displaced by last month’s flooding have had a hard time adjusting to the disruption.

Autistic children do best with routines and familiar surroundings, said Psychologist Kimberly Ward of Calgary's Society for Treatment of Autism.

"During a natural disaster really everything goes out the window in terms of the family's routine, in terms of even things like where the child is sleeping," she said.

"So that can really disrupt behavior. We've even seen instances where communication skills regress."

That’s what worries Bruce and Michelle Bolton, who have a severely autistic son and another with a more mild form of the disorder.

With their High River home flooded, the family was forced to move to Calgary temporarily.

Before the flood, 14-year-old Brett was living in a treatment program in the town.

"He's had some difficulty adjusting. He'd be a little more agitated than normal or he'd become agitated easier than when he was at home," the boy’s father said.

Preserving familiar routines — such as the same school and familiar toys — is a good way to help autistic children adapt to living somewhere new, Ward said.