When things get out of control or medical emergencies begin, it can be difficult to know what to do. That’s why, when first responders arrive on scene, many people’s first instinct is to breathe a sigh of relief. Professionals, we’re told, know how to assess a situation and respond appropriately — the pressure’s not on us anymore.
But to many marginalized communities, including the autism community, the arrival of police, firemen, or EMTs isn’t always a reassuring sign. Many community advocates share concerns that first responders may not be fully prepared to adequately address the needs of those with autism.
The cases reported on by the New York Times of Linden Cameron, Charles Kinsey, and many, many more have shone a spotlight on the ways that law enforcement has failed to protect and serve vulnerable populations.
Faced with this, a duo of educators decided to take matters into their own hands. Trisha Klausing and Becky Solomon began assembling sensory kits with the aim of stocking one in every patrol vehicle and firetruck in their hometown of Findlay, OH.
“We put on Facebook that we were starting this project, and we invited people to sponsor a box either in honor of someone or just for their family or business,” Solomon told WTOL11 News.
Each box costs about $35 and is stocked with equipment that may be useful when a first responder interacts with someone with autism. A fidget spinner, a whiteboard and marker, and tools for deep pressure therapy and nonverbal communication are among the tools now at the disposal of Findlay law enforcement and firefighters.
Departments are also being trained on the special uses of each item, and things to know about those with autism. “We’re hopeful that this kit may help them or give them those tools needed to respond to someone with autism or sensory processing disorder,” Klausing added.
With the help of the community, Klausing and Solomon’s original goal was met! Every firetruck and squad car in Findlay, OH is stocked with one of these kits. And, as training continues, hopes are high that those on the job will be prepared to help those in need.
“Thanks to everyone who donated to this amazing project!!” Klausing posted on Facebook. “Becky and I will be training all of the Findlay firefighters over the next few weeks on how to best assist someone with autism, and how to use the contents of the sensory boxes. The Findlay Police Department also has these boxes in every cruiser and received the training,” she continued. In a separate post on Facebook, she added she was “proud of the Findlay community for their generosity and support!”
Thanks to the efforts of volunteers who conceived, funded, assembled, distributed, and trained first responders in the use of these sensory kits, a community need is finally being addressed. Let’s hope more counties pick up the program and make these tools accessible to those that need them!Whizzco