Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience an array of sensory issues, which can include sensitivities to fabric, smells, lights, and more. These sensory issues and sensitivities are managed on a day to day basis by the children’s parents and caretakers. But in emergency situations, it can be easy to overlook these factors and cause added distress to children with autism. Now, with the help of Rachel’s Kids, Cornwall’s firefighters are prepared with soothing kits to calm down children with autism in these emergent circumstances.

Rachel’s Kids, a charity dedicated to providing aid for children in need and enriching their future through means of health, wellness, and education initiatives, donated these kits to help calm and distract children during emergencies. The kits come equipped with noise-cancelling headphones, a massage roller, a weighted blanket, a teddy bear, and other soothing items all aimed to help reduce the heightened stress and fear children with autism can experience.

Rachel’s Kids founder, Dr. Rachel Navaneelan, began the charity after encountering many children with autism at her dental practice, and felt the urge to help them and their families. When speaking to CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning, Dr. Navaneelan said, “[Parents] felt isolated, they felt segregated, they felt that the kids were not comfortable anywhere” and added that this occurs during events with loud noises. Utilizing money raised during Autism Awareness Month in April, the charity paid for and donated the kits with the intention of helping in the very scenarios Dr. Navaneelan discussed.

Dr. Rachel Navaneelan and team opening up House of Hope in 2017 (via Rachel’s Kids)

Thus far, three of the kits donated have been used by the firefighters in Cornwall. Should the kits prove to be a success, Dr. Navaneelan told CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning, then the use of the kits can be expanded to include paramedics and police officers that come in contact with children with autism during emergencies. “This excellent partnership will ensure everyone feels comfortable when first responders are on scene,” said Cornwall’s Mayor Bernadette Clement when she and firefighters visited Rachel’s Kids House of Hope to accept the donation. This amazing initiative is just the start in providing more inclusive tactics to ensure the safety and wellbeing of individuals with autism during emergency situations.

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