Firefighter uses homemade gadget to help autistic patients
By SUZANNE LAURENT
Feb. 26, 2018
NEWINGTON, N.H. (AP) — Sometimes cuddly teddy bears just don't work in calming a child or young adult being transported by ambulance to the hospital.
Bill Carey, a firefighter/EMT with Newington Fire Department, was recently watching a TV program about autism that talked about stimulation devices.
An idea was born, and with a few inexpensive items purchased at Walmart, Carey invented a gadget that he hopes will work with patients who have autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or anxiety.
"I grew up with a brother with physical and mental disabilities, so this is close to my heart," Carey said. "Children and even adults with those types of diagnoses respond to different stimuli."
Starting with a plastic water bottle, Carey filled it with tiny beads, small jingle bells, smiley face balls and toy insects.
"The bottle is ribbed, so it's for the sense of touch," he said. "The items in the bottle are for visual stimulation and the objects when shaken have auditory stimulation. The bottle can be rolled, so that the objects covered by the beads are revealed."
Carey said he sees it as a challenge when he runs across a patient with a disability to build a relationship in the shortest amount of time possible.
"We want them to know we're there with them," he said. "That way parents and spouses get a sense that we're going to try to do something that works."
Assistant Fire Chief Jeffrey LeDuc said there are stuffed animals in the ambulance, but they don't always work with autistic children as they only address the touch and visual senses and not the auditory sense.
"Years ago, we used to blow up rubber gloves and draw faces on them," LeDuc said. "Then we got the stuffed animals. But, we want to provide the highest care possible to the greater community."
Carey just created the gadget a few days ago, making two of them.
"The Fire Department supports these kind of ideas, and we'll be quick to train our personnel and send out emails on how to use (the gadget.)"
LeDuc said he and Carey will be talking with the director of the Birchtree Center in Newington about the gadget to see if they can further improve on it.
The Birchtree Center, located in Newington, helps children and youth with autism grow and flourish in their homes, families and communities.
"We visit the center a few times a year and do fire drills there," LeDuc said.
There is one gadget on the station's ambulance and one in the station to show the staff how to use it. LeDuc said if the patient wants to keep the gadget, they will be able to, and more will be made.
Information from: Portsmouth Herald, http://www.seacoastonline.com