WABUSH, N.L. — Wabush Fire Chief Marv Butler is pleased to be taking part in a new province-wide initiative to provide assistance to people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during emergency situations.
The premise is simple — a red puzzle piece sticker is placed in a window, but it has the potential to save lives.
“I feel it is a very good initiative,” Butler said. “Everybody is important to us as firefighters and we want to help and accommodate as many people as we can.”
The Autism Society of NL provides the stickers after the emergency personnel in a community have taken training to understand how to help people with autism in a crisis situation. Families place the stickers on their front door (and in the back window of their car) so emergency personnel are aware of the need to reduce stressors (hence increasing safety) for the person with ASD.
“A lot of people with ASD have sensory issues, so when we see a sticker we will lessen noise and lights,” Butler said. “We will turn off our sirens and instead of having every light going, we would just have the hazards on.
“Often when we approach a scene, we make a lot of noise, hoping a victim will hear us. For someone with ASD, that noise could drive them away from us, so we’d do a quieter search by feel and by sight.”
Jenna Mouland says the sticker provides her with some comfort. Her four-year-old son has ASD.
“It brings peace of mind to know that, if something were to happen, people would know that there is a child in the house who might not react the way other children would,” Mouland said. “He is cautious of people and it is good to know they would know how to approach him in a non-stressful way.”
Butler has given some stickers to local families like the Moulands, and distributed some at the daycare, but he has more available for anyone who wants them.
“I want people talking about and using this,” Butler says. “For a little sticker to raise some awareness for us, we want to do whatever we can to help.”
For Butler, that includes delivering stickers for people who are concerned about privacy or who cannot come to the station.
“If anybody wants privacy, I’ll bring the sticker right to their house. They don’t have to come to the fire station,” Butler said. “If some evening after supper someone wants one, just tell me the address and I’ll be there.”
Anyone interested in receiving a sticker can contact Butler at 709-944-1608 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.