Local fire lieutenant creates sensory boxes to comfort special needs patients during calls

Flagler County Fire Rescue Lt. Jon Moscowitz was inspired by his 4-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, to create Brookie Sensory Boxes. (Provided by Flagler County)

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – It was the personal experience of dealing with the special needs of his 4-year-old daughter that inspired Flagler County Fire Rescue Lt. Jon Moscowitz to create sensory boxes to comfort special needs patients during calls, which also helps them connect and communicate with paramedics.

Every Flagler County emergency vehicle in the county is now equipped with “Brookie Sensory Boxes,” named for his daughter Brooklynn.

“It is my dream to have every fire department equipped with ‘Brookie Sensory Boxes,’ and potentially available to all school resource deputies as well,” Moscowitz said. “My daughter may go several places with me or other family members, but no matter where she is, she is always in a firefighter’s care, should the situation arise. I want first responders to know how to comfort and communicate with her if the need is ever there.”

Moscowitz, along with his wife, Cherish, created their Brookie Sensory Boxes with items touted for their ability to engage all five senses and limit sensory overload. Their inclusion on all rescue vehicles means that they are available for all patients who have a sensory processing disorder.

Each box includes toys and objects, such as touch-and-feel books, plush toys, fidget toys, and hearing protection. Boxes also contain dry-erase boards with markers to allow communication for those who are non-verbal.

Autism -- a neurodevelopment disorder that causes a wide range of impairments in communication and restrictive and repetitive behaviors -- is one common sensory processing disorder. April is “Autism Awareness Month,” designated to raise awareness, acceptance, appreciation, and understanding of the disorder.

Autism affects one in 44 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Florida Department of Education reports that statewide 47,667 children (kindergarten through 12th grade), are reported to have sensory processing disorders.

“This is a wonderful tool for our units to carry to assist children and adults who are having a hard time communicating,” said Fire Rescue Chief Michael Tucker. “These boxes provide comfort items in a time of distress.”