Police in NJ town rolling out sensory kits to help interact with people with autism

The kits include noise-reducing headphones, sunglasses, stress balls and handheld fidget toys. The kits also include a picture exchange board for communicating with a person who is nonverbal.

News 12 Staff

May 6, 2021, 2:29 AM

Updated 1,109 days ago

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Police officers in a Union County town are taking steps to better interact with autistic members of the community.
Officer Jessica Diaz, with the Roselle Park Police Department, knows first-hand about autism.
“My oldest daughter suffers from autism. She’s 5 now, and she was diagnosed when she was 2,” Diaz says. “At the beginning of it, she was practically nonverbal for quite a bit and then through stimulation and different types of therapies, she came a very long way.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 54 children has been identified as being on the autism spectrum. With April being Autism Awareness Money, Dias, through her research as a parent, learned about sensory tools. She brought this idea to her department.
“Our department had implemented sensory kits – emergency sensory kits for those who are special needs. In particular, autistic people of our community. People with special needs who may have needs that require more than the standard police tactics,” says Roselle Park Police Chief Daniel McCaffery.
Roselle Park police will roll out later this week emergency sensory kits containing sensory items that help deescalate an emergency situation with a person who might have special needs.
“If somebody is craving sensory, or if you kind of want to refocus some of their stimming behavior, you may give them something to accommodate them and kind of keep their hands busy or refocus them,” says Diaz.
These kits include noise-reducing headphones, sunglasses, stress balls and handheld fidget toys. The kits also include a picture exchange board for communicating with a person who is nonverbal.
“If we encounter somebody who has a mental deficiency or something beyond the typical scope of our patrol duties and what we do, this is going to try to help make that situation a little easier to deal with,” says McCaffery.
The chief adds that mental illness is often overlooked and that the tools will help the department be more compassionate to the people they serve.
All the sensory supplies in the tool kit are for all ages and it's all a matter of an officer showing the toys to the person they're interacting with and allowing them to choose what they're most drawn to.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the town as Roselle instead of Roselle Park.


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