WATERTOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — “We work everyday to raise awareness and really, it’s beyond that – we’re looking for acceptance and inclusion for our community,” said Christine Faressa, who founded the Sun, Moon and Stars autism support group with her husband, Mark.
The Faressa’s son, Dominick, now twelve, is on the spectrum.
Every April, they work on new autism initiatives in the Watertown area.
“We’ve grown in leaps and bounds. We have quite a few new families who’ve joined our organization and we’re all about providing opportunities for families,” Faressa said.
This year, she is partnering with ASRC – Autism Services and Resources Connecticut – to train the Watertown Police Department with these sensory bags, filled with tools to help officers work with a person on the spectrum during an emergency.
“There are noise canceling headphones,” says Faressa.
There’s also a body sock that provides comfort, like a weighted blanket.
“They go right in, they go inside of it,” says Faressa.
Deputy Chief Renee Dominguez is planning to get a bag in every cruiser.
She wants all officers to understand the purpose of each item.
“My question to Christine and her crew was, ‘How does the officer know when it’s appropriate to offer this up?'” Dominguez said.
It’s all about understanding and connection.
This white board is an important component.
“It can be used for communication either for the child or the adult or the officer, as well,” says Faressa.
Sun, Moon and Stars also just hosted the third meet-and-greet with Watertown PD, giving kids on the spectrum a chance to experience the landscape in a positive way.
“The kids got to play with the shield, the vests and what-not,” says Faressa.
“They got to go into the police car and hit the siren, hit the horn and do all that fun stuff,” says Dominguez.
A community effort…to make a difference.
“We really celebrate all the milestones as we can and sometimes we need that shoulder when things get tough,” says Faressa. “We’ve built that community where there is that shoulder for them.”
Within the month, 20 sensory kits will be in Watertown cruisers and two will given to school resource officers.