Ottawa

Cornwall firefighters carrying kits to soothe children with autism

Donated kits include noise-cancelling headphones, teddy bear

Posted: July 16, 2019

The charity donated the kits to firefighters to help children with autism during emergencies. (City of Cornwall)

Firefighters in Cornwall, Ont., are packing some extra equipment when they respond to emergencies these days — they're carrying special kits to help calm children with autism who may have trouble dealing with the lights and sirens.

The kits, donated by local charity Rachel's Kids, include noise-cancelling headphones, a massage roller, a weighted blanked, a teddy bear and other tactile objects to soothe and distract children during emergencies. 

"You're calming the child down," said Rachel Navaneelan, who founded the charity.

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The items in the kits are the same as those favoured by children at the charity's House of Hope. The kits include instructions on how best to use the items.

Navaneelan said she has encountered many children with autism while running a dental practice in Cornwall, and decided to do something to help those families.

Loud sounds

"[Parents] felt isolated, they felt segregated, they felt that the kids were not comfortable anywhere," Navaneelan told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning.

That can be especially true in situations involving loud sounds, she said.

So far, three of the kits have been distributed. Navaneelan said if they're a hit, they could also be used by police and paramedics who encounter children with autism.

"This excellent partnership will ensure everyone feels comfortable when first responders are on scene," Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement said in a news release.

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The charity paid for the kits with $6,000 raised during Autism Awareness Month in April.

With files from CBC Radio's Ontario Morning