Big turnout for first re­spon­ders and autism train­ing ses­sion

Lo­cals learn about ASD in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions

The Packet (Clarenville) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JONATHAN PAR­SONS THE PACKET CLARENVILLE, N.L. jonathan.par­sons@thep­acket.ca Twit­ter: @je­j­par­sons

First re­spon­ders filed into the Eastlink Events Cen­tre Thurs­day night, April 20, to learn about autism, thanks to a spe­cial sem­i­nar by Autism Society NL and the As­so­ci­a­tion of Fire Ser­vices.

Many dif­fer­ent first re­spon­ders from the lo­cal area were in at­ten­dance, in ad­di­tion to par­ents and oth­ers af­fected by autism.

The pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador As­so­ci­a­tion of Fire Ser­vices, Duane An­tle and the lo­cal fire depart­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive Evan Cox, were on hand as well.

This was the 23rd re­gional ses­sion com­pleted by Autism Society NL and the As­so­ci­a­tion of Fire Ser­vices.

The first half of the ses­sion dealt with un­der­stand­ing autism, or autism spec­trum dis­or­der (ASD) and the sec­ond half fo­cused on how first re­spon­ders can deal with sit­u­a­tions in­volv­ing peo­ple with ASD.

Gosse broke down three core dif­fer­ences for peo­ple with autism that might help peo­ple un­der­stand their devel­op­men­tal de­fi­ciency: com­mu­ni­ca­tion, so­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and in­flex­i­bil­ity in rou­tine.

“What hap­pens with autism, and other devel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties, is that those in­di­vid­u­als hit (life) mile­stones late and sometimes they don’t hit them at all,” ex­plained Gosse.

Gosse also went over many tips for in­ter­act­ing with a per­son with ASD, es­pe­cially when they may be anx­ious due to the stress of an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion.

One of the most im­por­tant as­pects of the ses­sion was iden­ti­fy­ing “red flags” that may help first re­spon­ders in iden­ti­fy­ing in­di­vid­u­als with autism.

For ex­am­ple, an in­di­vid­ual with autism is of­ten rigid to change in rou­tine — and while an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion causes great stress and anx­i­ety, it may af­fect those with autism even more so due to the un­ex­pected na­ture.

Gosse sug­gested ex­plain­ing to some­one with autism “what hap­pens next” be­fore it hap­pens can al­le­vi­ate some anx­i­ety in some cases.

Another topic fo­cused on was how sen­sory over­load can af­fect peo­ple with autism.

As a demon­stra­tion, a fire­fighter wore full bunker gear and showed just how fright­en­ing and loud first re­spon­ders can be in an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, in­clud­ing loud noises and bright lights.

Peo­ple with autism may ac­tu­ally try to evade or con­front phys­i­cally the peo­ple who are try­ing to get them to safety.

With the num­ber of in­stances of peo­ple with autism wan­der­ing, or go­ing to the many ar­eas with nearby water, the need to in­form first re­spon­ders of how to deal with sit­u­a­tions in­volv­ing peo­ple with autism is an es­sen­tial learn­ing op­por­tu­nity — es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the numbers of peo­ple with autism to­day, which ac­cord­ing to Autism Society NL is ac­tu­ally at epi­demic pro­por­tion in many ar­eas.

JONATHAN PAR­SONS PHOTO

The train­ing ses­sion at­tracted 61 peo­ple from fire de­part­ments, paramedics, search and res­cue, health care, ed­u­ca­tors, stu­dents, par­ents, grand­par­ents and the lo­cal MHA. The pro­gram has trained 1351 peo­ple since its in­cep­tion — hav­ing also con­ducted sem­i­nars around the prov­ince, in­clud­ing other lo­cal ar­eas.

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