It all started with an orange a decade ago.
Joshua Lemmens, while sitting in a cafe in downtown Hope, recalls the day he visited a friend whose autistic adult son became entangled in a police conflict while a bystander.
Arms flailing, the man refused to listen to police orders and both Lemmens and his friend, the man’s mother, worried for his safety.
“She said please don’t shoot, and went back into the house and came out with an orange … and his sole focus went on to this orange, and he was just peeling it” and it totally defused the situation.
The orange, says Lemmens, was a positive trigger for the man, and “positive triggers are really important in emergency preparedness.”
It’s those sorts of tips that are on SNEP.ca, a recently launched website created by Lemmens and his wife, Giada Crosbie, to assist people with cognitive disabilities, or their loved ones, with special needs emergency preparedness (SNEP).
“Over the years, I’ve realized there’s such a massive gap for emergency preparedness for special needs individuals, and this includes people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, people within the autism spectrum, and people with cognitive disabilities,” explained Lemmens, who’s lived in Hope since 1994. “Addicts are also people with special needs, and they’re often overlooked and forgotten about.”
So six months ago, Crosbie says she began designing the website, to which they now both contribute content: bit by bit, the duo are filling the site with “exciting and practical information that will help with preparedness for family members and caregivers of people with special needs.” Lemmens is producing informative videos and photos, while Crosbie is writing articles and creating their online presence.
“It would be great if we lived in an idyllic world where nobody ever used our advice,” Crosbie continued, “but we don’t live in that world. So we try to look at everything that encompasses special needs emergency preparedness.”
“And Giada comes at it from a perspective of knowing how to help somebody with autism because she was there,” Lemmens added.
At the age of three-and-a-half, Crosbie, who was non-verbal at the time, was diagnosed as autistic. “I know what it’s like to be in a situation where you don’t have that awareness and what shutdown and stuff is like, so I’m bringing that to SNEP.”
Their personal connections to autism are also part of the reason why the couple decided to launch their website at the beginning of April: April 2 is when Autism Awareness month kicked off. “We just thought it was such good timing, and that we’d really hone in by offering additional articles about autism throughout the month (because) we wanted to show our support.”
For more information, or to learn how you can help a loved one with cognitive disabilities prepare for an emergency, please visit SNEP.ca.