Sensory support kits to help Clarington firefighters respond to neurodivergent residents

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Published May 2, 2023 at 12:24 pm

Clarington firefighters participated in special training to better understand autism and discuss response strategies with Judy Hanson (left) and Hannah Warner from Autism Home Base.

Clarington Fire and Emergency Services staff are now better equipped for situations involving neurodivergent and autistic residents with the delivery of sensory support kits for each of the municipality’s eight fire trucks.

Communication and sensory processing differences in some residents present “unique challenges” for first responders and the new kits contain items that can help regulate sensory input, such as noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses for light, scented stickers for odour, fidget spinners and poppers or tactile relief, and, to prompt and aid communication, Picture Exchange Communication cards and notebooks.

“These kits are a valuable new tool on our fire trucks,” said Clarington Fire Chief David Speed. “This important initiative will help Clarington firefighters better support neurodivergent residents at the scene of an incident.”

Clarington firefighters participated in special training last month to better understand autism and discuss response strategies. The training sessions were developed in collaboration with autistic adults and family caregivers from Autism Home Base Durham, a local non-profit organization that supports autistic adults and their families.

“This pivotal training gives first responders the knowledge they need to evaluate an individual in an emergency situation and to feel confident that the actions they take will lead to the most successful outcome,” said Judy Hanson, CEO of Autism Home Base. “We are thrilled to be working with Clarington Firefighters and so grateful for their commitment.”

With the training complete, the sensory kits – “a great inclusive solution,” said Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster – will launch in Clarington fire trucks this week,

The new training and sensory kits follow the municipality’s safety program, Think Ahead, where families of children with special needs can invite Clarington firefighters into their homes for a safety inspection and to discuss an emergency.

 

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