NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Norman Police have a new bag of tools – literally – to help them when they work with residents on the autism spectrum.
It’s designed to help with communication and the easing of anxiety in high-stress environments.
“We know that typically when we arrive on scene that there is something that’s going on that is potentially someone’s worst day or a high stress situation, even if it’s something as routine to us as a traffic stop,” said Sarah Jensen with the Norman Police Department.
Those situations can be even more stressful for those on the autism spectrum.
But new kits from The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma aim to help by providing bags with sensory items and more for all ages.
“If someone’s having difficulty with bright lights, we have noise canceling headphones if maybe they’re noise sensitive,” said Emily Scott, Executive Director of the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma. “We also have a weighted lap pad to bring comfort to individuals who need that.”
Perhaps the biggest help, police say, is cards with images to help residents express their needs or feelings.
It’s not just stressful scenes where these come in handy – they help with the investigative work officers do as well.
“The opportunity to work through some of those hurdles or what would traditionally have been barriers for officers to have those resources available for a quick grab to be able to work through those situations has been key,” Jensen said.
This initiative was made possible in part by the manager at a Wal-Mart in Norman as well as Baker Speech Clinic, Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma hopes to get these kits to more departments across the state.
The kits cost $75 each and can be purchased on the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma website.