So I passed the Firefighter written exam with flying colors – very exciting! I come from a family of firefighters, paramedics, and police officers, and this opportunity made me light up with passion. I helped start our county’s Citizen Volunteer programs with Fire Rescue four years ago and have been chomping at the bit ever since to get on board.
I then mentally and physically prepared for the Physical Ability Test (PAT). At 39 years young, 5’2″, and <110 lbs, I knew it was a stretch for me to pass this test but I was ready. I’ve been working out intensely six days a week for over three years. Oh, I knew it would be hard… but I honestly thought I had it in the bag.
I did not pass the PAT. You know what? I gave it my all. I didn’t walk away, didn’t give up, and ran the course until I had nothing left in me. I tried! I am so grateful for the chance to go for it.
Not to play the classic “Fox and the Grapes” theme, but here are some great reasons why I’m a bit relieved to have this behind me. These are not insurmountable challenges that I couldn’t have found solutions for with some crafty brainstorming, but nonetheless I am looking at realistic facts:
I am a single mom with a special needs child. 24-hour shifts would require very creative solutions! Childcare, school special events, and holidays all had potential to fall on my shifts. And they would! Also, who would the school call for a sick child? Could I leave the fireground to pick up a child having a sensory meltdown? I don’t think so!
Serving the Autism Community. The academy takes 100% of your time, energy, efforts, and dedication, as it should. Yet I recognize a great need in the Autism community for tools and support that simply aren’t available right now. I am committed to using my gifts in the highest way possible.
Children on the Spectrum Have Trouble Moving
- There is a marked higher instance of gross motor deficits in children with Autism than their neurotypical peers
- Gross motor deficits can include abnormal gait pattern, hip flexibility, spatial awareness, and trunk stability
- These issues DO NOT SELF-CORRECT in time
- Self-esteem suffers; they cannot perform many movements, cannot understand what’s expected of them, and in turn become even more socially awkward
- Organized sports do not set the foundation for long-term skills and overcoming movement deficits
- Many schools have cut or don’t regularly offer PE!
- It’s been proven that children (and adults!) perform better on tests and cognitive functioning after they’ve moved around
The Fitness 4 Autism Program
- I provide custom profile assessments to determine the quality of movement pattern and any deficits or exceptions that may be relevant
- Pushing, pulling, squatting, and rotating movements done together will directly benefit physical, adaptive, and cognitive abilities
- Working with your child and fitness boosts confidence, independence, and self-esteem and teaches goal setting
- No expensive, large equipment needed! I come to you.
- These movements taught also benefit not just sensory and gross motor skills, but fine motor skills as well
- Speech targets, communication, and behavioral targets can also be incorporated into the program
- Sharing this program with your child will also benefit the entire family – it sets everyone up for long-term health and fitness
Special Needs Training for Emergency Responders
With the staggering number of children being born on the Autism spectrum, one sector that absolutely needs to understand how these children process information and respond to situations is public safety. First and emergency responders are not trained to recognize and handle the unique physical and behavioral symptoms of Autistic patients or victims, which are likely to be exacerbated by a crisis or injury.
Do you think an Emergency Responder would know how to handle these behaviors?
- Difficulty understanding language or gestures
- Inability to follow multiple commands
- Limited or no speech, or repetitive phrases only
- Avoids eye contact
- Spinning, rocking, flapping arms, hitting self, biting self
- Inappropriate laughter or response
- May not feel cold, heat, or pain in a typical manner
- Hyper or hypo sensitivity to light, sound, smell, touch, or taste
- Abnormal fears or lack of fear in a dangerous situation
I provide workshops and training classes for EMS, Fire Departments, Police Departments, Red Cross, and others where needed.
Overall, I am grateful to have a taste of following one of my dreams. I’m even more grateful to be able to continue volunteering for the county, helping to prepare families for disasters and hazards and being trained and able to respond to them when they arise.
Most of all, I am ecstatic that I can use my passions and dreams (and failures!) to refocus my energy and help children and families affected by Autism.
For more information on Fitness 4 Autism Program or Training for Emergency Responders, call 404.939.6211 or email Debi@SpiritOfAutism.org