Sensory SAFE Day

Event helps those with developmental disabilities to learn about emergency personnel


Individuals with developmental disabilities often experience sensory sensitivities making it difficult for them to participate in many “normal” activities or interact with other individuals in situations that cause them high stress.

Recently, a community Sensory SAFE Day was held at Bushido Karate Center, who opened their doors and provided indoor swings, trampolines, mats, and obstacles, so that these individuals could have a chance to play in a zone that was free of flashing lights and loud noises. More importantly, these individuals and their families were able to meet with law enforcement officers and emergency personnel to discuss their individual needs and educate each other so that, in the event of a future emergency, all parties could feel like they were better prepared to assist each other.

“The idea for our Sensory SAFE Day came to us from a parent of a child with autism,” Rachel Auberger, who co-hosted the event with Macey Gurley, said. “She said that she wished that law enforcement officers could meet her child and get to know him, because, as he grows, there may come a time when he needs their assistance, and she would like for them to be familiar with him.”

Auberger said the idea grew from there and resulted in White County Sheriff Steve Page, along with a K-9 unit, agreeing to attend the event. From there, Sparta Police Department, White County Emergency Medical Service, Sparta-White County Rescue Squad, Sparta Fire Department, White County Emergency Management Agency, and Life Force air medical all had representatives at the event to interact with families.

“We have had nothing but positive feedback about the event,” Auberger said, adding that over 100 people representing more than 30 families attended the event. “The families all expressed their gratitude for being able to expose their children to the different emergency response vehicles and personnel. The children were able to explore the fire truck and ambulance and meet with police and deputies. Our hope is that they will feel less afraid should they ever need services from these departments.”

“Additionally, and maybe even more importantly, we hope that the officers and emergency personnel that were on hand were able to learn a little about each of the individuals they met at the event and will be better equipped to meet their needs, should they respond to an emergency that involves one of these families,” she added.

As well as having the emergency vehicles and personnel on site, families were able to complete information sheets about their children that were then given to White County Sheriff Department, White County EMA, and respective fire departments so that, in the event of an emergency, the needs of the individuals, who may or may not be able to communicate with the responders, can be made known.

“We hope to do all we can to avoid emergencies, but they happen,” Auberger said. “Our goal was to help everyone involved do more to help bring about a positive outcome should that day come.”

The plans for a future Sensory SAFE Day are already in the works.

“Everyone has expressed their desire to make this an annual event,” Auberger said. “Families move into the area, new responders and law enforcement officers join the departments, kids grow and change. So having the opportunity to learn and experience this over and over will be beneficial for the entire community.”


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