MI Firefighters' Autism Kits Inspired by 5-Year-Old

The Saginaw Fire Department was one of five agencies to receive the new sensory kits designed to help soothe children with autism spectrum disorder in emergency situations.

MLive.com, Walker, Mich.
Carter Severs, 5, looks through a glass toy with pink and blue goo inside that floats around, similar to a lava lamp. The tool is part of new autism sensory kits, called Carter Kits after the boy.
Carter Severs, 5, looks through a glass toy with pink and blue goo inside that floats around, similar to a lava lamp. The tool is part of new autism sensory kits, called Carter Kits after the boy.
Rachel Ellis | MLive.com

SAGINAW, MI—First responders with five Saginaw-area departments have new autism sensory kits to help soothe children with autism spectrum disorder and other special needs in emergency situations, thanks to a local initiative and new tool called Carter Kits.

Carter Kits are inspired by Carter Severs, 5, of Frankenmuth, who has autism spectrum disorder and whose father, Justin Severs, is a Saginaw Township police detective. Justin Severs recognized a need for tools to help comfort children who have special needs in crisis situations and discussed that need with Saginaw firefighter Brandon Hausbeck and friend Andrew Keller, an area retailer. Keller donated the first 10 kits, which contain noise-canceling ear muffs, sunglasses, a weighted blanket, sensory toys and fidget devices.

Carter Severs, 5, plays with some of the toys that can be found in the new Carter Kits, a new tool to help children with autism spectrum disorder who are at the scene of an emergency.Carter Severs, 5, plays with some of the toys that can be found in the new Carter Kits, a new tool to help children with autism spectrum disorder who are at the scene of an emergency.Rachel Ellis | MLive.com

Officials unveiled the kits and introduced Carter Severs during a press conference at noon Thursday, Dec. 12, at Saginaw Fire Department Station No. 1, 801 Federal Ave. The event was attended by the Severs family, Keller and emergency personnel.

The first five departments to receive the kits include Saginaw Township Police Department, Saginaw Fire Department, Frankenmuth Police Department, Birch Run Police Department, and Mobile Medical Response.

MMR Paramedic Supervisor Rob Warnemuende said MMR staff treat dozens of children each week and the kits will be a useful resource.

“Having some of these tools is going to help us a lot. The lights are bright, the sirens are loud,” he said of emergency situations. “With the headphones, with the sunglasses, (we can) keep them calm, that’s key."

Saginaw Township, MI, Police Det. Andrew Keller (from left), Justin Severs and his son Carter, 5, and wife Kelley Severs, and Saginaw firefighter Brandon Hausbeck.Saginaw Township, MI, Police Det. Andrew Keller (from left), Justin Severs and his son Carter, 5, and wife Kelley Severs, and Saginaw firefighter Brandon Hausbeck.Rachel Ellis | MLive.comAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, a developmental disability that affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. ASD can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

Word of Carter Kits is spreading fast and departments across the state and even across the country have inquired about getting involved, Keller said.

“It’s important. I think these kits will make a big impact," he said. “We’re going to figure out a way to keep this going and keep this growing.”

Kelley Severs, Carter Severs’ mother, said this initiative is “just amazing.”

“Carter’s situation could really have an impact on other kids,” she said.

Learn more about autism spectrum disorder here.

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