Public safety agencies receive picture communication boards

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Police officers and firefighters in Westfield have received picture communication boards from the Autism Society of Indiana that will be used to communicate with individuals who are nonverbal or have disabilities.

The Autism Society of Indiana provided 100 picture communication boards, which have been placed in the vehicles of all first responders in the city of Westfield, according to a news release. The boards will give police, firefighters and emergency medical services a way to communicate with people who are nonverbal, speak limited English, have autism or other disabilities or mental health issues.

“This is another important tool that our officers can use to assist our citizens who struggle with communication,” Westfield Police Dept. Chief Joel Rush said. “This donation from the Autism Society of Indiana will help us better protect that segment of our community. The pamphlets allow officers to better communicate with people by allowing them to point to pictures, words and letters.”

The communication boards are one solution to the challenges that people with disabilities in Westfield face, said Joanne Tedesco, who serves on the Westfield Mayor’s Council on Disabilities.

“We know that approximately 1 in 44 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. In some individuals, ASD presents communication challenges where some are completely nonverbal and rely on other communication devices and alternatives,” Tedesco said. “Having these visual cues will help alleviate fear and anxiety levels and allow individuals to communicate in a comforting and effective way. These boards will also help stroke victims, those with traumatic brain injury or mental health challenges get their message across.”

Police and fire personnel have also received a training video on how to properly use the communication boards, which have been provided to first responders in 60 Indiana counties by the Autism Society of Indiana.

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