By Amber Martin | Garrison Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Two Fort Carson fire trucks filled with approximately 10 firefighters were parked outside Carson Middle School Feb. 25, 2020, to award Abigail “Abbie” Moody, Family member, with a certificate of appreciation.
Moody, 13, delivered approximately 30 hand-sewn bags filled with sensory-friendly items Jan. 18, 2020, to the Fort Carson Fire Department’s Station 31. She created the bags to assist the fire department with medical patients who have heightened sensory responses. She also developed a presentation to educate the firefighters about patient care considerations for patients with autism.
“I know that there are a lot of (autistic) kids on (Fort Carson) and a lot of people, like the fire department, don’t know much about … how to help with calming them down,” Moody said.
Carson Middle School, where Moody is a student, is part of Fountain-Fort Carson District 8, which has the largest population of children in special education programs in Colorado, said Susan Moyer, Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) manager.
Part of Moody’s certificate of appreciation reads, “Her support for a special population of our community shows a spirit of compassion and love to make sure no one is overlooked or forgotten.”
Misty Moody, Abbie Moody’s mom, said Abbie’s compassion for others is her greatest asset.
“She wants to be a special education teacher one day and is amazing with children who are different,” Misty Moody said. “(She is) always speaking and standing up for them.”
The sensory bags included sunglasses, headphones, fidget spinners and a number of other sensory-friendly items to assist the fire department with attending to patients with autism. During her presentation Moody explained the sunglasses could be used as “invisible sunglasses” to help put patients at ease. The fidget spinners could help distract patients during a medical assessment.
Craig Wright, a firefighter and paramedic with the Fort Carson Fire Department, Directorate of Emergency Services (DES), said patients with autism are typically hyper-sensitive to light, sound, noise and motion. He said it can be challenging to care for patients with heightened sensory responses, but he has learned different ways to respond in these situations.
“I think it’s awesome what she did,” Wright said. “(The bags) are very beneficial.”
In cases where the fire department responds to emergencies where hyper-sensitive patients are involved, Wright said caregivers or parents usually help. They’re able to assist by sharing the best way to approach the patient in order to keep them calm.
Moody has seen firsthand what stressful situations, like the fire department or an ambulance arriving to her home, can be like. She has four brothers; three adopted brothers who all have special needs. The items in the bags will make it easier for the fire department to calm kids with sensory medical conditions, said Moody.
Robert Fisher, fire chief, Fort Carson Fire Department, DES, said the sensory bags will help take hyper-sensitive patients’ minds off what’s going on so the fire department can perform emergency services to help them, regardless of if they are receiving care or their loved one is.
According to the website Autism Speaks, anxiety disorders affect approximately 42 percent of people with autism. Anxiety can trigger symptoms including a racing heart, muscle tightness and some people might feel frozen in place.
In 2018, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention determined that approximately 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Some people with autism sense the world in different ways than other people.
“Even a typical person, when we’re in a situation, when fire trucks … and police cars are coming, our adrenaline goes up,” Moyer said. “The same things happen for (people with heightened sensory responses) but they don’t quite know how to handle that. These sensory bags give them a way to be able to handle the situation the best they can. It provides a grounding for them.”
Soldiers looking for assistance for Family members with special needs can reach out to the EFMP support office; Fort Carson’s EFMP phone number is 526-4590. The EFMP Family Needs Assessment is a standardized planning tool that provides focused and consistent EFMP Family support.
Last year, Congress approved procedures for identifying a Family member with special needs and coordinating travel for Family members of active-duty service members who meet the DOD’s criteria for the EFMP.
“Congress has just approved a new program for (the EFMP) to implement, which we have implemented,” Moyer said.
The Family Needs Assessment allows EFMP staff to gain an understanding of a Soldier’s Family’s needs and provides context for services. The family service plan further organizes the Family’s strengths and goals while outlining strategies to meet those needs.
Moody said she hopes the sensory bags not only make it easier for emergency services personnel to calm patients with heightened sensory medical conditions, but also help bring awareness to the world. She thanked her community, Family and friends for supporting her through donations toward the project.
Abbie Moody plans on continuing to pay it forward every month by helping people in need said Misty Moody.
“It’s nice to know that our customers are also willing to give back to the community we serve,” Fisher said. “She is an outstanding citizen.”