An emergency situation is almost always stressful, but when someone with special needs is involved, it can be extra overwhelming and upsetting for them.
More and more first responders are getting training on how to interact with those on the spectrum. The Clearcreek Township Fire Department in Springsboro, Ohio, has taken steps to ensure that when they respond to a scene that involves an autistic individual, they’ll be prepared on multiple levels to help keep them calm.
They’re doing this by stocking the three fire stations in their district with sensory bags.
Not only can these sensory bags help someone with ASD focus and stay calm down, but they will also help keep them safe and preoccupied in what is likely a very scary situation.
Eric Henry, who is both a firefighter and a paramedic, came up with the idea.
“We were sitting there talking about them visiting the fire department one day and I was thinking about how we were equipped to deal with autistic people within our community,” Henry said. “We have a lot of children that we’re going to interact with all the time and there is a high probability that we’re going to run into someone with autism.”
He did his research and included items in the bag that would be most beneficial to those with ASD.
The sensory kits include things like noise-reducing ear muffs, a dry erase board with markers, stress balls, fidget spinners, and other fidget toys. These are items that can keep their hands busy, reduce noise around them, and help them communicate with the first responders.
“First responders know it is important to remember that their presence may be overwhelming to an autistic individual and that individual may not respond in a typical manner,” the fire district’s Facebook post about the bags states. “With this in mind, FF/PM Eric Henry researched ways to better assist these patients. He thoughtfully assembled Sensory Kits for our medic units.”
It didn’t cost much, either. Henry was able to stock all three of the department’s fire stations with sensory bags for under $300.
“It is a challenging experience because they don’t communicate the way that we communicate,” Henry said. “Any way that we can reach out and make sure our guys are prepared when the come into a situation like this it’s a good thing.”
This is a great idea that we hope more first responders will participate in!
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.