First responders open their eyes to Autism Spectrum Disorders: education is key

First responders open their eyes to Autism Spectrum Disorders: education is key
Photo provided by staff.
Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 4:18pm

Autism is a disorder that affects nearly one in 50 people in our nation and half the time, you wouldn't even realize someone's affected.

Thursday, the State Fire Marshal’s Office hosted a special training course for our first responders to teach them how to deal with this disorder.

Our local and statewide police officers, DA’s and EMT’s joined in on this special autism spectrum disorder class as part of autism awareness month.

Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate which is something that's crucial for first responders. That's why this class is so important because it enables them to work with all types of people.

It’s often noticeable if someone has symptoms of autism.

"Everybody is going to know someone at some point with autism," said Asst. Chief Kase Neilsen from the Hammond Fire Prevention District.

But other times, those symptoms may be so subtle it’s overlooked, and in emergency situations, there could be severe consequences.

"This training is important to learn how to handle these types of people without hurting them you know because it can escalate a situation where that can happen," said Chief Dwan Bowser from the Lutchern Police Department.

That's why these first responders are educating themselves about ASD or autism spectrum disorder.

"It's so important that we take extra time with a person with autism and not put them through the criminal justice system when it’s already clogged up with other things that are justifiable," said Sgt. Jimmy Donohoe with the Pensacola Police Department.

Assistant Chief Kase Neilsen isn't just learning about the disorder because he comes into contact with people affected daily, but because this training will help him at home, too.

"My daughter’s deaf so I am learning more about disabilities and working with people with disabilities," noted Neilsen.

Police Chief David McDavid is preparing his staff. to make sure they are ready for anything.

"In the Zachary school system we have a lot of kids and adults there that have this autism and we want to learn how to deal with them," said Chief David.

One tragedy that's more prevalent with autistic children, drowning. Ninety percent of people under 14 who drown in the U.S. are autistic.

"We’re going to give them tools that will help them later on to saving these people so they don't become drowning victims."

The presenters have been traveling across the nation for the past year. Nearly 200 people showed up Thursday to learn these skills and presenters say the turnout surpassed every other stop even New York City!

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