The Huntley Police Department, Huntley Fire Protection District, and Southeast Emergency Communications (SEECOM) have created a new program to help increase our interactions with our community members with developmental disabilities and their caregivers. The Sensory-Friendly Accessible First Responder Experience (S.A.F.E. Huntley) was designed in partnership with Options and Advocacy to provide an inclusive environment for members of the community who might not be comfortable at other events that often include large crowds, loud noises and flashing lights.
About 1 in 6 (17%) children aged 3–17 years were diagnosed with a developmental disability, as reported by parents, during a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study period of 2009-2017. These included autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, blindness, and cerebral palsy, among others. About 1 in 44 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from the CDC Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. This can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, as well as unique safety risks which may increase the chance of encounters with police and other first responders. For instance, according to 2012 data published in Pediatrics, 49% of children with an ASD attempt to elope from a safe environment. This rate is nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings. To ensure the best outcomes, these individuals and their caretakers should be familiar and comfortable with First Responders.
“Huntley First Responders do a great job reaching out to the community,” states Huntley Police Social Worker Meghan Mumenthal. “We in the Police Department have policies and regular training for all staff on this topic and many of our officers are on the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), a program that includes specialized training to respond appropriately to incidents such as those involving an individual with a developmental disability or delay. The creation of S.A.F.E. Huntley is the next step in our goal to provide the best service to everyone in our community.”
S.A.F.E Huntley participants will have the opportunity to:
- meet staff from all the participating agencies
- learn about the services we offer
- become more comfortable interacting with first responders through conversation and role-playing
- see First Responder equipment and vehicles in a sensory-friendly environment
- provide feedback to First Responders on the ways we can better serve this community
- meet G.G., a trained comfort dog
To make the event comfortable for those with developmental disabilities and/or sensory processing issues, registration will be limited to reduce crowd size, sounds will be minimized (no sirens or loud radios will be utilized), lighting will be dimmed and no flashing or strobe lights will be used. The space will include fidget toys, coloring stations, yoga balls and floor mats for the participants who need those sensory inputs. A quiet room will also be available for any participants who may need a break from the activities. Detailed information, such as pictures, worksheets and social stories will be provided to registered participants beforehand to help prepare for the event.
Upcoming S.A.F.E. Huntley Events
Saturday, May 14
Huntley Area Public Library (11000 Ruth Road).
Participants may sign up for one of two available sessions: 10 am – 12 pm or 1 pm – 3 pm. These are drop-in sessions that are self-paced. Participants may stay for a few minutes or the whole 2-hour block.
Registration is required and is limited to 40 participants per session (including caregivers).
Register for the morning session
Register for the afternoon session
If you have additional questions, please contact Police Social Worker Meghan Mumenthal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-515-5386.