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THP becomes first law enforcement agency in Tennessee trained in sensory inclusiveness

The CDC said one in six people in the U.S. has sensory processing needs from conditions like PTSD, dementia, or autism.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A mom raising a daughter who was diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition said she is glad one more law enforcement agency knows how to interact with everyone. 

The Tennessee Highway Patrol became the first law enforcement agency in the state and the second in the nation that is trained on how to be sensory-inclusive, approaching people with care if they show signs of sensory processing disorders. 

Troopers will now be able to tell if a person is could be triggered by some kind of sensory stimulus as a result of conditions like autism, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or dementia. 

Holly Brooks is a stay-at-home mom to 9-year-old Trinity Besanceney, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder around 6 ago. 

“She's just like a typical kid, but if she gets overwhelmed, she gets really upset. She doesn't like loud noises,” said Brooks. 

Sensitivity to loud noises is a symptom of autism, a lifelong developmental condition that impacts people across the world, and other sensory processing disorders. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said one in six people in the U.S has a sensory processing need like PTSD, dementia, or autism. 

“With a population in Tennessee of 6.9 million, that's a pretty large group of people,” said Clint McKissack, a trooper with THP.

He also said troopers are now trained to detect if a person needs special help. The course was in partnership with "Kulturecity," a nonprofit organization that advocates for sensory inclusion. 

Each trooper was given a sensory bag with tools like headphones to soothe loud noises and a card with illustrations of emotions, so someone can show a trooper how they are feeling. 

They also learned how to interact with people who may get overwhelmed by meeting a trooper.

“You may choose not to raise your voice and be louder. You may have to go and sit down, take your hat off, present yourself as a calm and helpful person,” said McKissack. 

The sensory bags are designed to help manage sensory needs in both adults and children. The items in the bag can be easily cleaned and sterilized for multiple uses. Additionally, every road trooper will have a decal on their patrol vehicle to indicate to the public the trooper has sensory training.

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