Abbotsford firefighter praised for efforts with autistic

Often ran back into danger in a crisis moment

An Abbotsford firefighter is being praised for his efforts to help those with autism better handle emergency situations.

In a crisis situation a person with autism may become frightened by the lights, noise and personnel and actually run back into the danger and hide. Abbotsford firefighter Ryan Coombes recently planned an event for children and families living with autism.

Karitas Townsend was approached by Coombes a few months ago and asked if her six-year-old son Blake would like a tour of a firehall and truck in the hopes of making him more comfortable around emergency first responders. The visit to the hall was not only beneficial for Blake, but also for the firefighters, many whom had never known someone with severe autism.

Coombes then arranged an autism family awareness event with Monarch House (they offer therapy for developmental disorders). Coombes did all of this on his own free time and found some friendly co-workers to donate their day off last Saturday to bring a truck to Monarch House during a Family Appreciation barbecue being hosted at the site.

Thanks to his previous visit, Blake was much more comfortable around the truck and crew, showing how exposure before a crisis is beneficial.

Autistic people are very tactile and many children had the opportunity to touch and feel the firefighters in their gear as well as the truck.

Coombes also donned his gear and oxygen tank and played in a ball pit with the children .

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