BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — Bristol, Virginia firefighters received Autism Awareness Training through the Ben’s Blue Bags program on Thursday.

Ben’s Blue Bags is a non-profit founded by Matt Kodicek, a fire lieutenant and paramedic with the City of Crown Point Fire Rescue in Indiana. The program started three years ago and has provided training to over 1,5000 first responders from different states.

Kodicek presented the program in two parts starting with hands-on training for all Bristol Virginia Fire Department (BVFD) firefighters and Bristol Public Schools personnel. Topics discussed in the training included why people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are attracted to water, why they don’t recognize dangerous situations like fires or traffic and how to assist autistic individuals with destressing using sensory items.

The second part of the program included an overview of the sensory bags. The bags contain different items to use when patients are having stressful sensory issues. Items in the bags include:

  • A whiteboard
  • Dry erase markers
  • Pictures to communicate for non-verbal individuals
  • Noise reduction ear muffs
  • Fidget spinners

A multi-item sensory tool bundle also included:

  • Marbles in mesh
  • Squeeze balls
  • Soybean squeeze toy
  • Flipper chain
  • Liquid motion timer
  • Rubik’s Cube

Ben’s Blue Bags have reportedly been placed in over 250 ambulances, fire apparatus and police vehicles.

According to a release from the department, the BVFD is the second fire department in Virginia to receive the Ben’s Blue Bags training program.