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Making a Difference: New sensory-friendly bags on-board Frankfort ambulances

Posted at 2:24 PM, Jan 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 18:30:18-05

FRANKFORT, Ky (LEX 18) -  — Emergency workers in Frankfort completed training on Friday on how to use new sensory-friendly bags that are now on board every front-line ambulance across the city and county. The bags are a passion project of a local mom of a son with autism, and the simple idea has the potential to save lives.

In an emergency situation, decisions need to be made fast, so what happens when the person in need is non-verbal?

"The nature of our job is really quick interactions with people. The situations in which the communication is difficult makes our job more stressful, " said Captain Joe Sebastian, the Frankfort EMS Director.

It is a reality Meredith Redfern knows well. Her 16-year-old son has autism and is non-verbal, and as a member of Capital Area Autism Parents she also knows she is far from alone.

"A lot of the parents are hesitant to even call. The parents, if needed they're just going to bring them to the hospital themselves, " Redfern said.

It was about a year ago when Redfern first heard about sensory-friendly bags, and over the holidays she decided it was finally time to bring the idea to Frankfort. She said the EMS Director was immediately on board.

"It's amazing we're just all so excited and proud of them, " Redfern said.

So now, in each front-line ambulance that serves Frankfort and Franklin County, there is a bag filled with items hand-picked by Redfern and her son that might help someone like him in an emergency situation.

"You know you can have headphones and you can have sunglasses, and some of the other devices we have are a sensory ball, there's putty in there and there's a train, " Redfern demonstrated.

Another part of the bag is called a Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS. Using a marker and a series of pictures someone can communicate everything from their name, to how they are feeling and what procedure they might need. This is an especially effective tool for patients with autism who often communicate best via images rather than words.

It is Meredith Redfern's hope that others see this simple idea and put it into action in their own communities in an effort to make sure everyone can get the care they need regardless of how they communicate.

"I hope it does make a difference, and if nothing else it gives peace of mind, " Redfern said.

Captain Sebastian said he has already been contacted by numerous departments about implementing these bags in their own communities, including one as far away as Colorado.

For more information about Capital Area Autism Parents visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CAAP2/