Emergency situations can be overwhelming for anyone, but even more so for adults and children with special needs.
The Horry County Police Department hopes to soon have another tool in each of their patrol cars to help calm and comfort those individuals during a time of crisis.
HCPD is asking for our community’s assistance to provide every patrol unit with a ‘sensory kit’, and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
The kits consist of a bag filled with items to keep a child or adult’s hands busy. For those with sensory concerns, such as autism, doing so can improve focus and reduce stress, which could mean more positive outcomes on emergency calls.
Captain Johnny Harrelson is helping to spearhead the effort, and as the parent of a special needs child, the project is near and dear to him.
Harrelson’s 10-year-old daughter Layla has Pitt-Hopkins syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that renders her non-verbal, and she is on the autism spectrum.
“As a parent in that realm, it’s an awesome thing, and I hope it’s able to help some child or adult with those concerns,” Harrelson said.
Many aspects of a police or fire response to an emergency involve loud sirens and flashing lights, which can be too much stimulation for someone with sensory concerns, he said.
The kit can provide some activity, and a distraction from the stressful situation to help de-escalate any anxiety. The noise-cancelling headphones can also help in that regard.
HCPD is hoping to receive 200 sets, and Harrelson said that so far the feedback on the request has been great.
“This [number] will give us enough, with a couple of spares, to outfit every one of our patrol units,” Harrelson said.
The kits would stay with the patrol car on a case-by-case basis, he said, and if it was deemed necessary to leave the toys with the child or adult, they could be allowed to keep it.
“The instructions to the officers as they come in … was just to use their best judgement with that. If the child or adult has bonded with the toys, it’s absolutely worth letting them keep that and we’ll just move on and replace it,” Harrelson said.
HCPD created an Amazon wish list for the kits, and items purchased through the wish list will be sent directly to the HCPD Central Precinct.
To purchase a sensory toy kit for a patrol vehicle, click here: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2RLYJL71IVWQ3?ref_=wl_share