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Autism and the Eclipse: How neighbors on the spectrum are preparing for the big day

Heather Healy dives in on how friends with autism are gearing up for the upcoming solar eclipse
Posted at 9:24 AM, Apr 03, 2024

WACO, Texas — Oliver Bell, a third grade student at Parkdale Elementary, loves science and can't wait for the solar eclipse. Heather Healy shares his autism story and the support system behind him.

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Nine-year-old Oliver Bell loves to learn and is getting ready for the upcoming solar eclipse.

“What? The solar eclipse is next week?,” Oliver said.

“The solar eclipse is next week, are you excited?,” Heather Healy added.

“Wait, I totally forgot about that,” Oliver said.

But the way he’s preparing for it might be a little different than how you and I are.

“Early on, we noticed signs here or there that seemed a little off,” Bell’s father, Robert, said.

His parents started to notice some distinctive traits leading to his ADHD and autism diagnosis.

“He’d get scared, he’d cover his ears even if it’s not loud. He liked to line things up in perfect order, those are just some signs we realized that might be part of that,” Robert said.

But prepping for the upcoming celestial event with Oliver involves a little more than just making sure we have the proper glasses to wear

“We try to make sure he knows that he needs to stay by us, especially in crowded situations,” Robert said.

Ashley Pannell is a clinical manager with Central Texas Behavioral Solutions.

“We’re also practicing some de-sensitization techniques for getting our kiddos to wear the safety glasses,” Pannell said.

She said practicing before going out is key.

“Always to be within arms reach and always to be sure that they’re to kind of respond to basic commands of come here and stop and practicing those at home before you go,” Pannell said.

So everyone can enjoy this one in a lifetime event.