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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Local Mom Amber Horton Develops Sensory Kit for First Responders Handling Autism Calls

It's a fairly well known fact that when presented with a challenge for her kids, there's no greater force in the world than a mother.  That's amplified 10 fold when those kids have a bit more of a challenge in life like say Autism and if you mix in some real life experience on the mom's part and her ability to see that something is missing in essential services that could effect her job and her child....get out of the way and let the solution happen.

This is the story of Amber Horton who's an EMT at Pro Med here in town.  Amber is one of the front line workers we're all in awe of every time they have to come in to a desperate situation and somehow keep it all together in a moment of chaos in peoples lives and help them find a solution.  Her work has put her in about every unimaginable situation you can think of.  The life of an EMT is difficult and there's never much time for pleasantries and nice introductions when she meets most people.  It's more often than not a crisis situation and she's got one thing to do, stabilize things, assure people and get them in to the care of the hospital as quickly as possible.  In Amber's situation though, she's found a hole that needed to be filled when it came to helping someone.  What if the person they are responding to has Autism and is unable to communicate what's going on?

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Inspired by her 5 year old son, who's on the Autism Spectrum and working on his vocabulary still,  Amber thought of the entire process of her work coming into the life of someone like her son.  Autism quite often sees things like noise, confusion, lights and more as "sensory overload".  Too much of what's not normal can trigger things like shutting down or running away to find a safe space.  So too can be the immediate influx of people that are new to someone with Autism.  Firefighters, EMT's, Police all might be on the scene along with parents and neighbors, maybe onlookers if it's an accident...a chaotic scene to some can become an absolutely unmanageable situation to others and without the ability to communicate what the problem is...things can go from bad to worse quick. 

Amber has created a kit that can be carried with all First Responders.  It's got things in it to help someone who's overwhelmed at the moment be able to communicate what they are feeling through simple picture language.  Imagine a picture of a person pointing to their stomach to express stomach pain, or maybe a person holding their head to indicate head pain.  It's all in a small book that can be easily shown and communicated with.  How about the loud sounds?  Sirens, people talking, machines making beeping noises and on and on.  There are some noise cancelling headphones included.  Too bright, how about some super cool shades?  They are in there.  Calming gadgets to take the mind off what's happening and most importantly, with the kit, will come the training for all of out first responder community, which might ask them to set aside most of what they have learned in a crisis response situation and adapt to help the Autistic person.  Amber also stresses the importance of Smart 9-1-1 when if a call is placed to 9-1-1, they will know in advance of a situation at a home and be able to respond accordingly. 

Leave it to a mom to get things right for her child and watch the ripple effect.  I met up with Amber at Pro Med in Muskegon.  Nice shady spot under a pavilion with 6 foot picnic tables to keep out distance and she told me how it all came about.  Take a listen.

A mothers love is set to go to the moon and back on this one my friends.  Amber's ability to see a necessity and develop a way to help others like her son, as well as other like her colleagues in the first responder field is going to have a deep and lasting impact for a lot of people.  This is an idea born of necessity and will grow out of purpose and love and it's starting right here in Muskegon.  As Amber mentioned....stay tuned for one of the events her husband puts on where kids can get up close and personal with the trucks and tools needed in the first responder world.  We've found some local hero's folks.  It's what we love best.