Money needed to bring autism ex­pert to Cape Bre­ton

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY NANCY KING nk­ing@cb­post.com

SYD­NEY — The Autism So­ci­ety of Cape Bre­ton is looking to raise $20,000 to fund its plans to bring the world’s lead­ing ex­pert on autism train­ing for law en­force­ment and emer­gency re­spon­ders to Cape Bre­ton.

The so­ci­ety has booked Den­nis Deb­baudt to come to the Syd­ney area to of­fer four days of train­ing to up­wards of 1,000 first re­spon­ders in April.

So­ci­ety ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Michelle Gar­diner said fund­ing pro­pos­als will be sent to po­ten­tial gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rate sup­port­ers. In all, there will be six four-hour ses­sions. There will be a full day of train­ing for po­lice.

“Is­sues from meet­ing some­one on the street right up to in­ter­ro­ga­tion, be­cause peo­ple with autism re­spond very dif­fer­ently, and in search sit­u­a­tions, help­ing peo­ple to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ences when you’re search­ing for a per­son with autism,” Gar­diner said.

The move to bet­ter pre­pare fire, po­lice, search and res­cue and other per­son­nel for han­dling cases in­volv­ing peo­ple with autism stems from the tragic death of James Delorey in De­cem­ber. The seven-year-old wan­dered away from his South Bar home, prompt­ing a mas­sive search of nearby woods. He was found two days later se­verely hy­pother­mic and was air­lifted to hospi­tal in Hal­i­fax where he sub­se­quently died.

“James was a hero, James changed the world, and we’re go­ing to make darn sure that that hap­pens,” Gar­diner said. “James prob­a­bly saved count­less lives and it’s be­cause he made us all come out of our si­los ... and say, hey, we’ve got to talk to each other.”

With rates of autism ris­ing — it now stands at about one in 100 — some­thing like Delorey’s death was even­tu­ally bound to hap­pen, she said.

How peo­ple with autism re­act in fire sit­u­a­tions will be a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus of the train­ing, she added, not­ing they tend to re­spond very dif­fer­ently from oth­ers, of­ten choos­ing to hide rather than flee­ing their homes.

“By next fall, if I’ve got any­thing to do with it, we’re go­ing to be the best pre­pared and equipped first re­sponse com­mu­nity for deal­ing with peo­ple with autism,” Gar­diner said. “We did the best we could with where we were, but I think we all re­al­ize we have a lot to learn.”

Gar­diner is work­ing with the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Po­lice — par­tic­u­larly Const. Paul Ratch­ford and Chief Myles Burke — to de­velop an ap­proach to bet­ter deal­ing with in­ci­dents in­volv­ing peo­ple with autism. In ad­di­tion to the ed­u­ca­tion com­po­nent, there are two other prongs to the plan — set­ting up a reg­istry and de­vel­op­ing a mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem with detailed in­for­ma­tion about in­di­vid­u­als.

The so­ci­ety can be reached at 5672830.

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