Service Hero-Elvie Raper Re-purposes Outdated X-Ray Aprons to Help Autistic Children

Pictured: Lisa Jackson, Crystal Oliver, Elvie Raper, Jennifer Thompson and Tony Houston

Congratulations to Elvie Raper for receiving the Service Hero Award in Hot Springs. Read a portion of her nomination below written by Crystal Oliver:

“My name is Crystal Oliver and I work at the 70 West Clinic here in Hot Springs and I work with Elvie Raper who is our x-ray technician here. She is a wonderful and caring person and she takes a personal interest in all her patients as well as her coworkers. She and I had a conversation about my son, Chance, who is autistic. Recently she came to me and explained that a few years ago a patient who has autism came in and her mother asked what we do with the lead aprons once they are no longer used because people with autism and other sensory processing disorders can benefit from weighted blankets, or in this case a lead apron. Elvie told me she tracked down an apron for that child and the mother was so grateful with how much it helped her child that now Elvie gets aprons that are no longer going to be used and gives them to people with autism who might need them. It was then that she explained she just got some more from radiology and asked if I would like one for Chance and I said absolutely.

It may not seem like much but that simple lead apron can bring so many benefits. It is a human instinct to want to he held, but often children and adults with autism  and other sensory processing disorders can’t stand the feeling of physical contact with another person. That’s where the weight of the apron comes in. There’s actually been fairly extensive research on the benefits of a weighted blanket on individuals with numerous conditions and it has shown that when a patient gets the deep pressure simulations from the weight of the blanket, or in this case apron, their brain produces more serotonin, a neurotransmitter which affects various brain functions including mood and sleep. The increased serotonin creates a sense of calm for the patient.

My son, Chance, is 6 years old, he is non-verbal and he suffers from various other issues caused by his autism. I’m a single mom and sometimes it can be overwhelming. As a parent you want the world for your child but it hurts to see them struggle with everyday things. I personally get frustrated and disheartened because he struggles and I can’t help him. There is a constant worry for me because like many autistic children, Chance has a tendency to wander and I”m always afraid of him wandering out of the house in the middle of the night. What if he gets lost? What is someone finds him and tries to help but he can’t speak to them to tell them who he is or how he got there? I know it is hard for anyone who has trouble sleeping to get up and go to work. But as a parent of a child with sleep issues, I go without sleep myself from time to time from either having to repeatedly get up and put him back in bed or just from insomnia from the stress of the day. So I have to say that having anything at all that cane help is an amazing gift.

There are a lot of places that sell these weighted blankets but they are often so very expensive and parents of children with disorders are usually already strapped fore extra cash because of therapies or medications.

I keep abreast of research in the filed of autism and I have known about the benefits of weighted blankets for several years but haven’t got around to actually buying one. Chance really enjoys the sensation of pressure and he loves lying under it. I have to admit I have laid it over myself a few times to see if I could feel the benefits and I did feel more relaxed. I just wanted to let you know that these aprons are a wonderful gift to us. Elvie works hard to make sure that every apron finds a home where it is needed and words can’t express how grateful I am to her and to you for providing them.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to sincerely thank you for myself, my son, and every person who has got this seemingly insignificant thing that would probably otherwise have been thrown away. We will all sleep a little better tonight and be better able to take on the world tomorrow because of it.”