A Rio-Rancho based nonprofit is helping people on the autism spectrum by helping first responders.
Elevate the Spectrum, a nonprofit that serves people with autism and their families around the state, donated 90 “Hero Bags” to Rio Rancho Fire Rescue Department on Thursday. The bags contain items meant to help firefighters work with people with sensory or communication struggles including but not limited to autism, especially during emergencies.
“It’s going to be a great resource for individuals on the spectrum,” said RRFR Lt. Jessica Duron-Martinez, adding that firefighters like to have as many resources as possible.
She said each fire department vehicle would carry a bag, which would be replaced as needed. The distribution of bags and training on using them was going live Friday, she said.
Elevate the Spectrum and the University of New Mexico Center for Development and Disability partnered to provide a training video on using the items in the bags and giving guidelines for the interactions. The bags hold a white board with marker and a pictorial communication sheet to help responders communicate with people who are non-verbal, headphones to block upsetting noise and fidget toys to allow the user to focus and calm down, according to the video.
Elevate the Spectrum Vice President Tarra Main said she has two children on the autism spectrum, and her 9-year-old is particularly sensitive.
“A lot of noises like sirens spook him,” she said. “Lights spook him.”
ETS provided the bags because members wanted to help the community support families, Main said. She expects to provide bags to Rio Rancho Police Department the week of June 28.