EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — At least one in 59 children in the United States is on the autism spectrum, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of cases is on the rise.
As more people are placed on the spectrum, new ways to keep them safe are continually surfacing, including a new seatbelt cover.
The cover attaches to the chest strap with Velcro and for parents of a child with autism, it provides comfort in the event of a car crash.
“If there was an accident, he absolutely wouldn’t have any idea what to do. He might act completely wrong,” Margaret Cole said of her son Cameron.
Cameron is autistic and Cole says she often worries about what would happen if they were in an accident and she couldn’t tell first responders about his condition. With the new seatbelt cover, she won’t have to, because it reads: “I have autism, I may resist help.”
The project was spearheaded by the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Department in Massachusetts. Sheriff Jerry McDermott said he got the idea from a program in the United Kingdom and, as far as he knows, it’s the first of its kind in the U.S.
“Not just police officers, but any first responder, they happen upon a scene where a mom or dad is incapacitated and the child in the car is on the autism spectrum they may be nonverbal or their skills may not be such that they can discuss what is happening with that first responder,” McDermott said.
“It just makes everything simpler for us, for fire, for any first responder.” officer Sunyub Hwang added.
The seatbelt covers are free and available at any police station in Norfolk County.