The Texas VFD Center expands tools for communication with people with autism

LACEY LAKEVIEW, TX (KWTX) – The Lacey Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department is working hard to raise awareness and expand inclusion in the community during World Autism Awareness Month.

“We’re trying to be an autism-aware and accepting department,” said Christy Gomez, a volunteer firefighter in Lakeview.

The department is adding communication boards and sensory toolboxes to the equipment on its fire trucks to be able to communicate with children or adults with autism, especially in emergency situations.

“The boards themselves are where we can ask them questions and they can point things out,” said Fire Chief Patricia Byers-Faulkner. “It can help us when parents can’t speak for them.”

The boards have symbols and letters so that children or adults who may be worried or traumatized by the event can indicate how they feel or what they want to say but cannot.

“There are a lot of people out there who may not want to speak, and if you force them to speak, they’re going to shut up,” Gomez said. “Some kids with autism, they’re crazy and they like to run around and so if they’re in one of these places, if we have a toy or something, maybe that helps calm them down.”

The department also now has a sensor box in its vehicles. The box is filled with sensory items including fidget tools, stress balls, sunglasses, notebooks and more. Gomez said she hopes some of these items will help keep a child or adult with autism or other sensory disorders calm in stressful situations.

Autism is personal to Gomez, as two of her sons were diagnosed with autism. She said she is grateful that her community is taking steps to include more children like her two sons.

“With my sons both having autism, the fact that the fire department has these goals and how they can help the community is really important to me because if my kids decide they want to shut down that day, I I want them to be able to communicate and I want them to have a voice even if they don’t have a voice,” said Gomez.

The department found and ordered the boards online and laminated them to keep them in the cars, but Gomez said she assembled the sensitive box based on what she’s gathered from her experiences with her children’s reactions and reactions to the situation. has done

The fire department hopes to continue to provide resources and tools to ensure they can communicate during critical incidents, as well as comfort and support people in difficult times.

The Lacey Lakeview Volunteer Firefighters also hope their actions will raise awareness of the prevalence of autism in Texas and make sure children and adults feel included and welcome in the community, especially during World Autism Month.

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