THIBODAUX, La. (AP) — Hurricanes are stressful for kids but they can be especially confusing and terrifying for children with autism.
After Hurricane Ida ripped through Terrebonne and Lafourche Aug. 29, Thibodaux author, teacher and special-needs advocate Sylnita Livas-Bougere wrote a children’s book about her experience that she hopes can help other parents of children with autism.
“I thought this topic needed to be addressed,” she said. “I just felt like I could be the one to do it.”
The illustrated book, “My Friend Rain and the Hurricane,” is set to be published on Cyber Monday, Nov. 29. It is the sequel to “My Friend Rain,” which was published earlier this year.
The series was inspired by Livas-Bougere’s 9-year-old son, Rain, who was diagnosed with autism in 2014. They are told from the point of view of a little boy named Evan.
Livas-Bougere said she hopes her son’s stories will inspire others to learn more about autism. About one in 54 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism, and boys are four times more likely to have the condition than girls, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“My Friend Rain and the Hurricane” is based on the real-life experiences Livas-Bougere endured during Hurricane Ida. She and her son spent five days in three different locations as the Category 4 storm decimated southeast Louisiana.
“My son struggles with a lot of the sudden changes that occur during a hurricane, such as evacuations, new environments, living without certain amenities like Wi-Fi and not being in his safe place,” she said. “It took a lot of adjustment for that. This was a topic that needed to have a light shined on it because he was struggling.”
Though losing Wi-Fi may be an inconvenience for many, it can be traumatic for children on the autism spectrum, Livas-Bougere said.
“It might seem like something as simple as Wi-Fi wouldn’t be a big deal, but these children exist through their technology, their communications, their phones and tablets,” she said. “Without them, meltdowns and behavioral issues ensue. It’s not something you can control because they don’t understand what’s going on. When we did go home, there weren’t any amenities — lights, power or air conditioning. He didn’t understand, and it was a struggle.”
Livas-Bougere said she also had others in mind when thinking of an audience for her book.
“For me, it wasn’t just writing a book for mothers but for other family members and friends who might have been housing families affected by autism and are trying to understand why there are behavioral issues, why the child wasn’t cooperating and why the child is struggling,” she said. “So it’s information for everybody.”
Livas-Bougere said she hopes her new book raises awareness and sheds light on an issue that resonates in Louisiana.
“As adults, we try to mask our emotions from our children, and that’s difficult,” she said. “We’re worried about our homes, contractors, jobs and how we’re going to feed our children during a hurricane while trying to be the best parents we can be. But we are south Louisiana. We are strong and resilient, and we made it and we’ll make it again. But it’s a hill we have to climb.”
To buy a copy of “My Friend Rain and the Hurricane,” visit Livas-Bougere’s page at amazon.com. You can meet her in person during a book signing from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 12 at Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt in Thibodaux.