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From Inside the Puzzle: Raising a Child with Autism Blog

The Trouble with the Zombie Apocalypse

Published August 5, 2014 9:47 AM by Devon Alley
My mother made a very accurate observation about A. recently. She said, if we ever did have the misfortune of experiencing a zombie apocalypse, A. would have a very very difficult time. I'm certain it goes without saying that everyone would have a very difficult time during a zombie apocalypse, and also that a zombie apocalypse is extremely unlikely, but there have been a couple of recent "disaster" situations that have highlighted just how much more work we really need to do with A.'s coping skills.

We had some pretty intense storms pass through East Tennessee a little over a month ago, right before K. was born. One of these storms knocked a tree over into a power line right down the road from us, and because of this our power went out for an entire evening. No lights, no air conditioning and, of course, no computer, and no Internet. You would have thought the world was coming to an end. A. can deal with power outages that last maybe an hour tops, but once it goes beyond that, she begins to really panic. Part of it is simply not being able to prepare for what is going to happen next having no way to determine when the power will come back on is something close to torture for my eldest daughter. Most of it, however, is being cut off from the things she enjoys the most chatting on the Internet with friends, watching silly videos and also being cut off from her default coping activities listening to music and making digital art on the computer. She does have access to a lot of these items on her iPhone, but she also has an intense phobia of her iPhone running out of power which brings us to her next complication with a possible zombie apocalypse.

A. absolutely cannot stand the idea of her iPhone losing its charge. Now, this really should not be a problem her iPhone, like most models, is capable of holding a charge for hours, even under heavy usage. It's not like her phone runs out of juice at an alarming rate. Still, A. is absolutely terrified of her phone just stopping and "going dead" without her being able to control it. Once her phone dips down below 75% charge, if she isn't able to plug it up, she'll turn the phone off usually while loudly complaining that her iPhone "is about to go dead." Thomas and I have hypothesized that maybe it's the term "going dead" that distresses her so much that the visual image associated with the death of her iPhone causes her such intense anxiety that she can't deal with it. It may also be that she simply doesn't trust the indicators, and the idea that the machine may shut off at any moment is just too much for her to handle. Maybe she hates the fact that the indicator goes red and she gets a notification if she dips below 20%. Despite the fact we've tried to explain to her that she has hours of battery charge left in her iPhone at these times, she simply cannot deal with it unless her iPhone is plugged up to a power source. It's one of the more frustrating issues on long trips, as my mother found out when A.'s iPhone cable stopped working on their way to the beach a few weeks ago.

In addition to power outages and iPhone charges, A. apparently also struggles whenever water is no longer available. My mother has well water, and while A. was visiting her, a component in the well stopped working and they were without water for an evening. I was not there, but I understand that A. was a little freaked out about the situation. My guess is that it was interfering with her routine and the usual way of doing things, and that she was having trouble figuring out how to adapt to the situation. Thankfully, my mother is really good at adapting to strange situations, and she was able to show A. that they could melt ice for water to make macaroni and cheese, and she was able to get hand sanitizer so A. could use that to wash her hands. Still, it's a third strike that would cause incredible problems if we ever had to deal with a loss of utilities in the face of some sort of intense world event.

We are very fortunate, and very lucky, to live in the neighborhood we do, in the part of the world where we do, with the resources we have available. A. is fortunate to have to deal with these sorts of situations rarely if ever. That being said, and with all kidding aside, it's definitely an opportunity for us. A. really could use more coping skills in these areas, and could really benefit from learning to flex her creative problem solving abilities in the face of unforeseen circumstances. To a certain degree, this is absolutely related to A.'s autism especially with her tendency to "melt down" in the face of uncertainty. The panic she feels is real and is pronounced, and I am quick to do whatever I can to ease the issues for her when they come up.

But, to another degree, this is also generational. My grandparents knew how to "live off the land," from growing food to cleaning fish to canning vegetables, while I know very little about these skills, and my children will know even less. Certainly necessity is the mother of invention, and we are fortunate to not have had to deal with situations that forced us to learn such skills. That being said, I can't help but feel as if we're losing some valuable skill-sets. With the erosion of time and the commodity of convenience, it's possible we're becoming much less capable of navigating basic problems. As parents, perhaps we can think up some new ways to exercise these muscles and help challenge our children to think creatively and constructively. And, hopefully, we won't have to deal with a zombie apocalypse any time soon.

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A thought while reading this post is to maybe start camping.  Start small, setting up a tent in the back yard and maybe even keeping iPhones the first time.  Slowly work up to going to camp grounds and spending a few days unplugged completely (though a camera is great to take hiking).

Michael Neel August 5, 2014 6:10 PM

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