Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Police, Emergency services and Autism, what you can do

I recently had some interesting responses to an old Hub Pages article I wrote on what to do about an autistic meltdown, should you (as someone who isn't necessarily experienced) be faced with one. That article is HERE for the reading.

Amongst responses is the general disagreement on calling police in the situations for fear they'll only make things worse. Thanks to media sources and happenings across the globe, this is a legitimate fear. Even with good programs available to help all of our emergency services, too many departments still aren't educated on autism. Reports of autistic persons being tazed or tackled still come up.

With police, the simple fact is that training is meant to keep them alive. It is not geared toward handling autism in the first place. So when they come across a weird and escalating situation, they will subdue first and ask questions later. Remember, police routinely face situations were a gun or knife could pop out of anywhere. People go violent on them all the time. It's a high stress environment that can and will kill you if you aren't on your toes.

What we need to do is offer the education to our departments. There is no reason that any of you can't take this information, walk into the police department and make them aware of it (nicely). The same goes for any emergency department. Offer it to City Hall for that matter. Make it known and always approach as a 'friend'. We can make changes and make a difference. So, first, what are these sources?
First let me introduce you to the work of Dennis Debbaudt (yes, click on his name for the website). Dennis is nationally known now for his program geared toward helping emergency services with autistic persons. He has a series of books and videos and a very impressive resume of appearances. You could say that Dennis is loaded with information. You can even write or call him directly for additional information or advice on approaching your emergency services.
Next, Bill Cannata who is with the ALEC program. That stands for Autism and Law Enforcement Coalition. Click on the name to see the website. Bill has direct experience as the Captain of a fire department. ALEC offers a training program for all forms of emergency services in handling persons with autism. Make sure to check out the website and take it down in notes to offer to your emergency divisions.

Next I'm going to actually direct you to another blog; Autism 101 for Fire and Rescue. Yep, another link there. It's a long posting and offers some of the info I've given here, but you'll also find a couple of informative checklists further down as well as a host of more links. Take this info to offer to your local services.

With all that, how do you approach them? How do you get them to take part? Well, here's my take on that.

1: Always approach as a friend. You purpose is not just for your own autistic family members, but for the community as a whole. Understanding of autism can increase officer safety, civilian safety, and save critical time in emergencies. As a member of the autistic community, you can get organized and offer this information for all involved.

2: Show numbers. Help them to understand just how many members of the community have autism. Help them see a need. Use current news of the area and incident reports to support the interest. Remember, be friendly! Anger or outbursts will get you shut out or in legal trouble.

3: If you are treated poorly or turned away (rudely perhaps), use the "chain of command". Go to the head of the hospital, Mayor's office of your city, Representatives, Senators, or even Governor. Offer them the same information and show concerns and numbers accordingly. Tell them about your experience with the people who work under them and your disappointment.

4: Don't give up. You can be heard and improvements can be made. Just always be friendly and polite. Give flyers and information packets. Be organized and neat. And contact the resources I've listed here for their input on that matter too.

It's also a good idea to let emergency services know there is an autistic person in your home. It's okay that they know you or your autistic family member. Some people even have stickers on their door for emergency information.

Hopefully, this information helps you make better connections with your local agencies for the betterment of community. Please feel free to share your own ideas and this blog.

No comments: