Local first responders are now a little better equipped to de-escalate a traumatic experience for someone on the autism spectrum thanks to the Lennox and Addington County Autism Network (LACAN).
A formal presentation of sensory support kits by LACAN was made at the Greater Napanee fire hall on Monday, which featured Greater Napanee Emergency Services fire fighters, Lennox and Addington OPP, members of Community Living as well as representatives from sponsors Jamie and Jaclyn’s No Frills and L&A Mutual Insurance.
Mandy Stapley of LACAN was on hand to deliver kits containing materials that can help calm someone in a distressing situation. Sensory support kits include a teddy bear, fleece blanket, sound cancelling headphones, fidget toys, a stress ball and light filtering glasses. The materials help autistic individuals regulate their emotional and physical responses and can aid with self-regulation and self-calming. If used properly, the kits can prevent shutdowns and meltdowns as well as aid in recovery.
The kits also include helpful reference tools for first responders.
“We collaborated with Dr. Tess Clifford out of Queen’s Psychology and she helped us make this reference sheet which is kind of like a bunch of different behaviours that you’ll see across the board,” said Stapley. “If you see more than a couple of these then it’s an indicator that there’s more going on.”
A better understanding of what a person may be experiencing will help first responders know what to do to help calm the situation.
“Sometimes people not even on the spectrum can be over stimulated and something as simple as a blanket or as simple as taking their mind off of what’s happening is really good,” said Stapley. “These (kits) could be helpful for (first responders), it’s just something a little extra in their tool kit that they can pull from that will help them hopefully do their job a little more safely.”
Stapley says there are plans to deliver kits to other outreach groups such as Interval House, KFLA Addictions and Mental Health Services as well as Lennox and Addington Paramedic Services.