Lee County/Family Initiative Autism Hurricane Response and Recovery Survey Released

By January 30, 2024Press Releases

A study designed to analyze the needs of the unique autism community in disaster situations.

(Fort Myers, FL – January 30, 2024) – Family Initiative, a regional nonprofit that supports individuals and families affected by autism, has partnered with Lee County government officials and stakeholders to distribute, and analyze the Lee County/Family Initiative Autism Hurricane Response and Recovery Survey. Family Initiative is acutely aware that 1 in 36 families in the country are affected by autism and has unique challenges and needs for emergency preparation, response, and recovery that were evident and highlighted by Hurricane Ian in 2022. The goal of this survey is to analyze the readiness of special needs families, not just affected by autism, to evacuate, shelter, prepare, or recover from a major weather event. The results of this survey will help the county better understand the needs and Family Initiative streamline the distribution of goods and services to best assist families in preparation for and post storm.

Preliminary data from a pilot study reveals 27.3% of families cannot provide food for their family for 3 days. For the purposes of Family Initiative emergency planning, virtually all families, over 95% will be staying at home or in the area for category 1 & 2 hurricanes. For major hurricanes, category 3-5, over a third, 33.3% of families will be staying in the area. This is a significant number of families that may be looking for Family Initiative and Lee County to assist with their needs post storm. The accommodations needed for families navigating the unique needs of autism include short term childcare, debris clean up, and repair of damaged homes including air conditioning and fencing as most families are unable to leave windows and doors open and need a secure environment due to the elopement concern, or running away, escaping tendencies, for this special population.

Other concerns range from locating cooling stations, educating families about pets being allowed in shelters, as well as locating clean drinking water and gasoline without having to wait in exorbitant lines due to the physical and mental constraints of their special needs family members.

This survey has been shared with Lee County officials and stakeholders who will partner with Family Initiative for maximum distribution.

Family Initiative will host panel discussions on emergency preparedness, to share survey results, to assist in alternative emergency sheltering options for autistic persons, and to partner with our stakeholders wherever possible to bridge the gap as we recognize the desperate need for evacuation as well as maintaining safety and wellbeing for the autism and special needs community.

“We saw firsthand the needs our families experienced during Hurricane Ian,” said David Brown, President, Family Initiative. “We became the hub for resources for thousands of families immediately post hurricane and realized how unprepared all of us were, but mostly how these families have unique needs that are difficult to be met with the limitations given the multiple layers of destruction from the storm.”

The survey is in English and Spanish. It can be found here:


The survey can also be found at the following links:


It is also on all Family Initiative social media accounts:


Family Initiative (@familyinitiative) • Instagram photos and videos

Family Initiative (@FI_Inc) / X (twitter.com)




Family Initiative is a nonprofit impact organization based in Southwest Florida to support children, teens, and young adults with autism and their families. Family Initiative is constantly working to better support the autism community and is seeking input from families about their response needs during emergencies such as hurricanes. If you feel like you can assist with this, please complete the survey. To learn more about Family Initiative, visit www.fi-florida.org