The Gloucester Township Special Parents and Kids Network (SPKN) donated 75 gift bags to the township police department last week, bags to be utilized when an officer responds to a call for service with a resident who is diagnosed with autism.
The bags lessen sensory overload and offer assistance in communicating with the individual. They will be distributed to every patrol car in the department (roughly 60) and will continue as an ongoing project in the community.
The network received donations from GEICO and The Unforgotten Haven, a charity in Blackwood, and WSFS bank also contributed. Each bag consists of a laminated communication sheet that is directed to help non-verbal individuals, headphones, fidget toys, sunglasses, small blankets, coloring books and crayons.
Each item serves a specific role, such as easing anxiety, bringing down a noise level and creating a more calming environment to relieve stress, drawing attention away from potentially high-intensity situations while easing sensory overload in case of bright or flashing lights.
Judy Guido, a contact person for the network, said the project is something the organization hopes to continue.
“When there’s somebody with sensory issues or special needs involved (in a police incident), it’s a way for the officers to help communicate with them and calm them down …” she explained.
“In the event of a car accident or house fire, where [someone] is hurt, these children can be extra upset, so this bag is to give to them under [extreme] circumstances.”
Guido said that in conversations with township officers, it is clear they hope that surrounding departments in Camden County will also be interested in the idea.
“We would be happy to help,” she said. “We are a small nonprofit and rely solely on donations. Although we don’t have a big bank, we were hoping we could go out to other [organizations] to help continue this in the community.”
Community members interested in donating to and helping the network can go to its Facebook pages and websites or reach out to Guido at GloTwpSPKN@hotmail.com.