The city of Athens announced that it used a community grant to help parents and adults with special needs.
The city purchased these seat belt covers. When first responders arrive on the scene, these indicate someone in the vehicle has special needs or sensory issues, like autism.
"When I first heard about this, I truly was brought to tears," Stacey Givens, a parent, said.
Givens is the mother of a 13-year-old son with autism. She said she remembers a time when she got into an encounter with a police officer that frightened him.
"He has sensory issues, so the sights and the sounds were magnified for him so he was terrified and it's very hard to reason with a child about what is about to happen, a police officer is about to approach the car and son we're going to remain very calm," Givens said.
Givens said she had an identifier on the back of her vehicle - so the officer knew when he approached them that her son had Autism.
Now, because of a grant parents and adults around Athens are able to get 'I have autism' and 'I have special needs' seat belt cover identifiers for free. If a child with either are ever involved in a car wreck or need to be approached by officers, the first responders know right away the child may not speak or respond to help. First responders say these identifiers are a helpful tool.
"It''s difficult to know when you show up on a wreck scene and you have a child that is scared and you have a parent that may be knocked out may be unconscious for whatever reason, this is a tool, this will be no different than any other tool that we use in our toolbox," Bryan Thornton, the fire chief in the city of Athens, said.
State representative Daniel Crawford, senators Tom Butler and Tim Melson funded the $2,967 grant and says they're even taking the seat belt covers to Montgomery to try to get this program to become statewide.
Givens say parents in Athens need to take advantage of these seat belt covers
"Why would you not want your child to be understood in that situation and to be handled appropriately'? 'So I feel desperate, anxious to get it into all of their hands," Givens said.
The 300 seat belt covers are available are free to pick up at the fire station, the police department and they'll also be handing them out special city events. They said if supplies do run low, they'll just order some more. The mayor of Athens Ronnie Marks said this is just one of the cities many ways they are trying to make Athens inclusive to everybody who lives there.
HOW TO GET THEM
Fire Station No. 1 on Washington Street and the Athens Police Department will have the seat belt covers available for the public starting March 2. AFR and APD will also distribute the seat belt covers upon request at various community events, while supplies last.
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