Big turnout for first responders and autism training session
Locals learn about ASD in emergency situations
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.
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.