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Tornado Alley


Spring is here. Flowers are blooming, trees are budding, the sun is shining and we are practicing tornado drills. I live in the Midwest which means every spring brings forth warmer temperatures and cloud rotation and tornado warnings. Tornado warnings that my son on the spectrum takes VERY seriously. He enforces the ‘closet rule’ with the efficiency of a military general when the sky darkens with the merest hint of severe weather.

The weather—it’s a love / scared to death relationship for Ewan. He loves tornadoes. Loves to talk about them, loves to watch videos about them, loves to read about them, loves to play that Wii game Tornado Alley and watch the tornado gobble up everything around it as it grows into an F5. He knows the Fujita Damage Scale better than any Weather Channel staffer and as he eloquently stated yesterday, ‘If it’s an F1, F2, or F3 we might survive. But if it’s an F5 we’re all gonna die.’

He is obsessed with finding what he calls the secrets of the tornado—he is the living embodiment of Michael Crichton’s Twister cast. He thinks the tornado chaser is quite possibly the coolest person in the world. No need for athletic role models for this kid—he thinks Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel walks on water.

Obsessions are a mixed bag of blessings, irritations, and deep breathing exercises. They are the air these children breathe and the very meaning of life. And for caregivers—well, let’s just say that the person who created Advil surely had a kid on the spectrum obsessed with something.

I’ve learned to like what Ewan finds fascinating over the years. We’ve went from volcanoes to earthquakes to planets to bugs to weather systems colliding in mid-air. As a family we’ve learned quite a lot about volcanic structure and formation, plate tectonics and seismography, gravity and rotation, arthropods and pupae, and the ever exciting cumulonimbus clouds. At this point, my fact based knowledge borders on savant like—I now play a really mean game of Trivial Pursuit.

Obsessions have given Ewan all those answers to the questions about life, the universe and everything. Douglas Adams would be proud to know Ewan has them all written in an invisible language embedded in the core of his being. Obsessions have given us the tools to help him understand all those other details to life. His love of plants helped bridge the world between food and aversion. His love of the body has helped him understand the world of migraines and his allergies. His love of video games has helped bring him closer to the world of cinema—who would’ve thought Lego Indiana Jones for the Wii would make him a George Lucas fan?

You never know where an obsession will take you. Love the obsessions, respect the obsessions, make bridges out of obsessions. Use the obsessions to create meaning from chaos. Use the obsessions to find the answers to life, the universe, and everything. And keep the Advil handy…


One of the main factors about tornadoes is to understand its warning signs.
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You must also stay informed by listening to radio and local TV.
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