Maryland-National Park Police Carry Sensory Toys to Calm People in Stressful Situations

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Maryland-National Park Police officers are carrying bags of toys as part of their equipment to help comfort people who have disabilities or mental health issues.

Officers will use sensory bags to help calm down children or anyone who gets overwhelmed in stressful situations.

“Anybody that’s going through some type of issue where there’s a little bit of chaos with our police lights, our police sirens, our radios, our dogs,” Detective Sgt. Frank Wulff said.

Mark Bucknam’s son John, who has autism, was in a car crash years ago.

“It was fairly traumatic, the whole incident, and so for a while he was just not comfortable around police officers or first responders,” he said.

He said his son used to wander away from home and police often had to help find him.

“He does like certain sensory toys, anything like that that can take his mind off a stressful situation is just fantastic,” Bucknam said.

Park police officers just got their toy bags Wednesday and within two hours already had to use them.

“We had an incident where a young child went missing and was also hard of hearing,” Wulff said. “And our officers identified this and knew that it was a chaotic situation and actually utilized, of all things, a slinky to help calm down the situation.”

Police said they’re also planning to add a whiteboard into the bag in the future so officers can communicate with people who are hard of hearing or nonverbal.

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