When you hear ‘tools in my toolbox’, most think of a construction worker, handyman, electrician or plumber. However, there are others that carry a toolbox too. As an EMT, my toolbox includes an ambulance, stretcher, jump kits, oxygen, medications, training, publications and more. Hartford Fire and Rescue, located in Hartford WI, now has one more tool in its toolbox, reusable Autism Comfort Kits placed in each ambulance.
Did you know that First Responders are seven times more likely to encounter an individual with an ASD, autism spectrum disorder, than the average person? And when they do encounter those individuals, it is during an emergency or traumatic event. Hartford Fire and Rescue has seen an increase in responding to such events, and knew we needed to do something to be better prepare to help these individuals. After reading an article in a trade publication about a fire department successfully introducing comfort kits, the ball was put into motion to bring similar kits to our organization.
An internet search for ‘autism and first responders’, resulted in millions of hits. Combining that data, with information gathered at conferences and trainings, we identified several types of sensory items most beneficial and durable. With help from National Autism Resources, we felt that our comfort kits should include weighted gel lap pads, sound-damping ear muffs, liquid timers and fidget devices. Generous support and sponsorship from the GFWC Hartford Women’s Club made the comfort kits a reality.
Tools are not always hammers, screw drivers, wrenches and nails. Tools are whatever is necessary to get the job done safely, efficiently and most importantly with compassion. The goal of an EMT is to provide care, safely and calmly, and our hope is these autism comfort kits will be the ‘tool’ to do so.