My son was 18 months old. He was standing next to my bed, humming, as I was folding laundry and separating the piles. Then he walked out. In the time it took me to fold a pair of jeans, this child had walked to the other end of the house, found my keys, figured out which one was the car key (!), went outside, opened the trunk, and climbed in. NO EXAGGERATION.
Around that same time period, I remember driving to an errand, both kids in the back seat, and glanced in my rear view mirror with horror to see my son “surfing” on the arms of his car seat, yet the restraints were still fastened. Holy Houdini! (I went through about three of four different models of car seats that year trying to find a straitjacket-level security device!)
In First Grade, I dropped him off at school, walked halfway with him to his class (the IEP requested we start to assert some independence in the mornings… ha!) and went on my merry way after kisses and high fives like usual. It just so happened that I forgot something from the house. Coincidentally, I also needed gas that morning and went left instead of right, passing the school again. About four blocks from the school, in a direction I normally never would have traveled, was my son, walking with his backpack and singing, without a care in the world. He apparently walked right out of the building after we parted in the hallway, and the teacher assumed he was absent that day… AHHHHHH!!!! No one knew! Imagine what could have happened if I turned right that day!!!!
So these are some crises that sprouted unexpectedly within the structure of a normal day. What if there was a fire in your home, or you were in an auto accident? What if you were hit with severe weather or a natural disaster? What if your child with Autism creates a public disturbance? How would a police officer deal with him or her?
Would an emergency responder recognize the signs of Autism in your child, or would they treat them as if they were mentally ill, on drugs, or non-compliant?
Why Emergency Responder Training is Needed
Many children on the Spectrum have no visible signs of a disorder. An average child in appearance with socially unacceptable behavior that no one understands can lead to a nightmare if public safety is involved. Your child may get pushed around, put in jail, injured, or worse.
It’s vital for emergency responders to identify the signs and behaviors of Autism and learn how to make your child feel as safe and non-threatened as possible to avoid a perilous outcome. Police Officers, Firefighters, and EMTs learn about alcoholics, diabetics, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation. With as many as 1 in 70 children being diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum today, the time has come for everyone to understand! This should be part of standard training. That’s why I am called to begin such training in my own county and work my way out.
Do you think a Firefighter, EMT, or Police Officer would know how to communicate with or understand your child in an emergency? Feel free to comment below!
Stay tuned for Part II of this post… behaviors, tips, and what you can do in YOUR community to help emergency responders learn more!