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Comfort kits help Whitestown Fire Department make emergencies less stressful for children with autism

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Posted at 11:06 AM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 13:05:04-04

WHITESTOWN — The Whitestown Fire Department is taking steps to make emergency situations less overwhelming for children with autism.

With the goal of keeping children calm, reducing noise and helping them communicate with first responders, the fire department, along with the Behavior Analysis Center for Autism (BACA) in Whitestown, developed comfort kits for use during stressful situations.

The comfort kits include noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, sensory toys and a weighted blanket, according to a news release.

“Emergencies are already tense and stressful. Having comfort kits will help our first responders when they respond to a scene involving a child with autism,” Whitestown fire chief Josh Westrich said. “We partnered with BACA, located here in Whitestown, to develop autism comfort kits to bring a sense of calm amid a chaotic situation.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network estimates about 1-in-54 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder.

“It is essential for first responders to understand autism and be prepared to respond effectively and safely,” Westrich said. “We are grateful for BACA’s assistance not only in creating the comfort kits, but also in developing a training video for our team to utilize them.”