Autism and the Beaufort Scale

Written in November 2023

This afternoon I caught up with the final session of my list of Ocalicon presentations I wanted to attend, this time FLIPPing Our Thinking: Communicating Diagnosis and Intervention Using a Strengths-Based Model. It looked at executive functioning in autism, an area of great interest to me as it was also a big part of the University of Geneva ADHD course I did a few weeks ago.


What stood out to me was the use, with a particular client, of the Beaufort Scale as a way of relating to emotional arousal and regulation (this is an executive function). The Beaufort Scale, for those of you who don't remember from school, is a 12-point scale for measuring wind intensity that we use to communicate whether you need a hat on outside, or if you need to strap down the wheelie bins.


It stood out to me because I used the same scale earlier this week to explain to mum (a geographer who is very familiar with the scale) the impact of having people in the house over Christmas. This will be the second Christmas I have lived back in the house where it all takes place and I struggled last year with having relatives in the house for several days. I felt like I had been invaded and like I wasn't in control of my space.


The Beaufort Scale was a good way of relating what it's like having people moving about, making noise and discussing 1,001 plans for the day that I might or might not be involved in or required to make a decision about etc. etc. It communicates the disruption and impact on me in understandable terms.


On a normal day when it's just us in the house we stay below a 3 on the scale. On the Beaufort Scale that's small twigs moving in a wind strong enough to extend a light flag. Earlier in the year when we had decorators, scaffolders, roofers and the rest we got to a 6 most days. This is large branches on trees in constant motion, being able to hear the wind whistling through telegraph lines and an empty wheelie bin blowing over. To cope with this I spent a lot of time out walking, even going camping for a few days for some peace.


At Christmas it can get to a 10 – going from strong wind through gale and all the way to storm (11 and 12 – hurricane – being reserved for Out There, because we're generally quite quiet as a family!) and this is more than I can tolerate for any length of time. This, on the Beaufort Scale, is wind that you struggle to walk in with trees uprooted, trampolines in the wrong garden and structural damage. This last point is particularly pertinent because I felt like the structure of my coping abilities had been damaged.


I'd already written this title when I watched the FLIPPing Our Thinking session, but it definitely spurred me on to write this on a Friday evening, and I wonder whether the Beaufort Scale can be a useful visual or relatable scale for other autistic people to use. It could communicate an internal emotional state, an external experience or the status of a relationship. I think it'll be one I use again and again.


Image credit: Image by 12019 from Pixabay

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