Gladstone Fire and Rescue Station firefighter Jonathan Sutton with an autism sensory trauma kit which aims to help firefighters communicate with individuals with autism or communication difficulties.
Gladstone Fire and Rescue Station firefighter Jonathan Sutton with an autism sensory trauma kit which aims to help firefighters communicate with individuals with autism or communication difficulties.

Firefighters trial autism trauma kits

GLADSTONE Fire and Rescue Station has a new tool to help communicate with people at incidents: an autism sensory trauma kit.

Firefighter Jonathan Sutton said the kit contained visual and hearing protection, a communication aid and other sensory objects.

The kits were designed to help firefighters communicate with those on the autism spectrum and with communication difficulties in an emergency situation.

They will complement trauma teddies already used to help calm children in a “difficult situation”.

“Having these kits on the truck can help us calm people down if they are experiencing distress from the situation,” Mr Sutton said.

“It also prompts us to think about whether anyone around is showing signs they might need some extra help or might be at risk.”

The autism sensory trauma kit contains a variety of things to help firefighters communicate with individuals with communication difficulties in an emergency situation
The autism sensory trauma kit contains a variety of things to help firefighters communicate with individuals with communication difficulties in an emergency situation

The kits will be trialled on two of the station’s fire trucks, but Mr Sutton hoped they would become a regular fixture for the service as a whole.

He said research showed first responders tended to focus on the immediate, obvious problem like the house on fire or the person with injuries while not necessarily picking up that there may be someone else in distress.

“People on the spectrum tend to do better in environments which are well structured or familiar,” Mr Sutton said.

“So an emergency situation is basically the worst possible outcome because it’s loud and bright, rapidly changing and unfamiliar.”

Children on the autism spectrum pose a bolt risk, potentially running away from the incident.

Mr Sutton said the tactile objects of different kinds would help calm children if they were anxious or distressed.

“It’s something that’s very easy but helps us do our job better by serving the community better,” he said.

“It helps us to consider people who have specific needs or who might otherwise be overlooked.”