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Autism Training For First Responders To Expand


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Six years ago a Massachusetts fire captain began teaching first responders how to identify and deal with individuals with autism. Now, he’s taking the program national thanks to a federal grant.

Bill Cannata started the Autism and Law Enforcement Education Coalition in 2005 by working with groups in his Westwood, Mass. community.

Today, the organization has touched 17,000 emergency professionals in the Northeast and now with the help of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant will expand to 13 states as far west as Oklahoma.

The training program — led exclusively by those with family members who have autism — coaches first responders to understand how stimuli like sirens or flashing lights could overwhelm an individual with the developmental disorder. Participants learn appropriate responses, such as guiding the person to a calm space and taking the time to listen.

Those who have gone through the two-hour training are appreciative. And many soon report back that they’ve had an opportunity to put their new skills to use, Cannata told The Boston Globe. To read more click here.

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Comments (5 Responses)

  1. msamericanpatriot says:

    I have a friend who is doing the training here in my city. She has a degree in childhood psychology and is autistic herself. She seems excited about doing the training.

  2. PBMom says:

    This warms my heart. It is desperately needed. I’m terrified for my son if a police officer were to ask him to stop moving or get down on the ground, he would not be able to respond because he does not understand (he is 15 now). So many people with disabilities wind up getting tazed because police officers do not understand what is nonresponding because of a real threat versus our kids who just do not understand simple commands. We are working on it on our end, but he is severely involved.

  3. Capriccioso says:

    This is so needed. I wish the Renton/Bellevue/Seattle WA Police Departments’ staff had the training when I sought SERVICE from the police 1998-2003 for my then teenage son having ASD/ADHD/CP, who ‘enjoyed’ doing walking cruises about 5 miles radius to our home. I’d be petrified of my son MIS-understanding commands to stop with him thinking it was a ‘game’ of ‘hide & seek’ & ‘tag’, & what lethal force an officer might mistakenly use. Front Responders in WA state STILL need to UNDERSTAND developmental disabilities’ cognitive levels & perceptions!

  4. Audrey Carlson says:

    How would I contact Bill Cannata? It would be wonderful if we could have someone come to our fire hall to train our firefighters. Thank you

  5. heather says:

    I would really like to know how to get this training for my small town?

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