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DA Rice Urges Emergency Responders to Train Members on Symptoms of Autism

Developmental Disorder Affects Communication;

Could Impede Rescue Operations

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice joined members of the autism community to call on emergency responders to further educate their personnel on the signs and characteristics of autism and other developmental disabilities. Without the proper training, it is possible that some behavioral characteristics could be mistaken for threatening actions and impede rescue operations.

Autism affects an individual’s ability to communicate in many ways, and no two individuals on the spectrum are alike. This can make it difficult for emergency personnel to react properly and ensure the safety of everyone in an emergency.

Autism Speaks is the nation’s largest autism and awareness advocacy group, and is reaching out to local first responders with their Autism Safety Project. The program provides resources, information and guidelines for self-training that focus on teaching emergency personnel, including police, fire, EMS, hospital emergency workers, search and rescue workers and dispatchers, how to recognize individuals with an autism spectrum disorder in emergency situations. Autism Speaks also provides a list of agencies that can provide more specialized training.

The lack of proper training can have dire consequences, as was the case last March in Los Angeles when police shot and killed a 27-year-old man with autism after he failed to obey the orders of officers.

“Nassau County’s first responders and emergency personnel undergo rigorous training in preparation for any scenario, including how to identify a person with autistic characteristics,” Rice said. “I strongly encourage all local police, fire, EMS, and emergency response agencies to become involved in the Autism Safety Project, an initiative that will further ensure that all our first responders have the specialized training they need.”

“The Autism Safety Project is also focused on how families can prepare in advance to best help their child in the face of an emergency,” said Autism Speaks Director of Family Services Lisa Goring who supervised this project. “The kit features materials to help families better prepare in advance for an emergency or crisis situation, including tools for creating an effective safety plan.”