How Hurricane Sandy Is Affecting A Girl With Autism On Long Island

  @mariamzzarellam.vultaggio@ibtimes.com on November 03 2012 2:34 PM

Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath has devastated the Eastern Coast and has especially affected those with disabilities.

My sister Felicia is 21 years old, and when I tell people I have to babysit her, they normally look at me like I have seven heads. Well, that is, if they don’t know she has Autism.

For those who know people with the learning disability, many of them don’t like change. In fact, not only do they not like change, they find it virtually impossible to deal with change.

If that’s too much of a generalization, it’s 100 percent true in my sister's case. She is severely disabled, so when she noticed that there was no power on Monday when the hurricane hit, she was distraught.

At first she said a simple, “Oh no.” But when she realized that Daddy couldn’t make the power come back on with the snap of his fingers, she flew into a full-on tantrum.

On Monday, she was inconsolable and only stopped crying when she slept. The next morning, when she woke up, her first words to me were, “He’s coming soon.”

She was referring to a repair man she believed to be coming to fix the cable and the Internet. My mother decided to tell her it would be 10 days before her routine would be back to normal, so for all of Tuesday she constantly said, “10 more days, he’s coming.”

I’m not sure if she really knows how long 10 days is, but it at least made her understand that the Internet and television weren't coming back that day.  

On Wednesday, she seemed to have reached her wits' end, and nothing we said could make her feel better. Her constant cries were starting to wear the family down.

My mother had a brilliant idea, though; she drove my sister around the neighborhood to help her understand what had happened, what the hurricane had done.

Even though she is 21, trying to explain this situation to my sister has been akin to making an 18-month-old understand it. 

She seemed fascinated by the uprooted trees and torn-up sidewalks, but in her mind it didn’t explain why she couldn’t have things go her way.

Felicia is, after all, used to getting what she wants, but Mother Nature was doesn’t discriminate between those with autism or without it.

We even tried taking Felicia to the library, where she would be able to use the computer. She was happy for a time, but when she got home and noticed that her laptop still wasn’t working the way she wanted it to, things got even worse.

It would have been better if we never took her to the library at all, but then again, we had no idea how she would react.

Because she was in such despair, she nearly tore her laptop in half. Luckily, we were able to rip it from her grip before she was able to do so.

Nearly 80 people lost their lives because of Hurricane Sandy, and thousands are without power. People are waiting on three-hour gas lines just so they can cook a warm meal for their families.

But it’s also affected those with learning disabilities who can’t understand what has happened. It doesn’t take much to make Felicia happy, and now, the only things that keep her smiling are inaccessible; she's been constantly crying, and it's breaking our hearts. 

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