BLOOMINGTON, Ind.- A Bloomington woman is making sure people who are nonverbal can still communicate in an emergency.

Kristie Brown Lofland is giving first responders in her community a communication board.

“It’s just about helping people in our community, that’s it,” said Kristie Brown Lofland, President of the Autism Society of Indiana.

Earlier this year, a little boy with autism wandered away from his home in Kristie Brown Lofland’s Bloomington neighborhood.  A city utility worker found him.

“He was non-verbal and the city worker called police and the police came and I just happened to look out the window,” said Brown Lofland.

Brown Lofland saw the worker and the police officer struggling to get information from the boy so they could get him back home.  After seeing that situation unfold, she knew there had to be a better way.

“If it can just help one citizen who has difficulty communicating then to me that’s a success,” said Brown Lofland.

She teamed up with a local nonprofit sorority to buy 200 communication boards for police officers, firefighters and EMT’s.  The boards are kept in their emergency vehicles.  So, if a first responder goes out on a call and there’s someone who is non-verbal, this board can help break that barrier.

“I really feel like it could be a useful tool,” said Ryan Pedigo, captain with the Bloomington Police Department.

Police officers and the person in need can point to certain pictures to help piece together what the problem is and how they can get help.

“Probably the ones on the top would be the most useful; what is your name? Where do you live? What is your birthdate? Do you feel sick? Things that like could really make sure we are getting the person the help they need,” said Captain Pedigo.

It’s a simple resource that can help in a difficult situation.

“Ethan is non-verbal, so I’m not sure he can do language, recognizing letters or not but he will do a good job of recognizing the pictures,” said Jiangchuan Shem, a Bloomington father.

Ethan is 5 years old.  He’s the little boy who accidentally wandered away in the neighborhood for a little while before the city worker and officer brought him home safely.

“This could’ve meant that I lost one kid so it’s really important to me,” said Shem.

These neighbors now share a connection and a passion for making sure in an emergency everyone has a way to be heard.

“It’s important that people be able to feel safe,” said Brown Lofland.

So far, these communication boards are with the police and fire departments in Bloomington. More boards have been donated to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.  One thousand communication boards will be heading to the Indiana State Police.  The goal is for every first responder in the state to have one.

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