First responders with five Saginaw-area departments have new autism sensory kits to help soothe children with autism spectrum disorder and other special needs in emergency situations, thanks to a local initiative and new tool called Carter Kits.
Carter Kits are inspired by Carter Severs, 5, of Frankenmuth, who has autism spectrum disorder and whose father, Justin Severs, is a Saginaw Township police detective. Justin Severs recognized a need for tools to help comfort children who have special needs in crisis situations and discussed that need with Saginaw firefighter Brandon Hausbeck and friend Andrew Keller, an area retailer. Keller donated the first 10 kits, which contain noise-canceling ear muffs, sunglasses, a weighted blanket, sensory toys and fidget devices.
Officials unveiled the kits and introduced Carter Severs during a press conference at noon Thursday, Dec. 12, at Saginaw Fire Department Station No. 1, 801 Federal Ave. The event was attended by the Severs family, Keller and emergency personnel.
The first five departments to receive the kits include Saginaw Township Police Department, Saginaw Fire Department, Frankenmuth Police Department, Birch Run Police Department, and Mobile Medical Response.
MMR Paramedic Supervisor Rob Warnemuende said MMR staff treat dozens of children each week and the kits will be a useful resource.
“Having some of these tools is going to help us a lot. The lights are bright, the sirens are loud,” he said of emergency situations. “With the headphones, with the sunglasses, (we can) keep them calm, that’s key."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, a developmental disability that affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. ASD can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.
Word of Carter Kits is spreading fast and departments across the state and even across the country have inquired about getting involved, Keller said.
“It’s important. I think these kits will make a big impact," he said. “We’re going to figure out a way to keep this going and keep this growing.”
Kelley Severs, Carter Severs’ mother, said this initiative is “just amazing.”
“Carter’s situation could really have an impact on other kids,” she said.