Three programs can help give families peace of mind
Published: August 31, 2015
By: Bama Hager, Ph.D.
The Autism Society of Alabama (ASA) has focused on safety during recent years and continues to develop safety tools and suggestions for families with members diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
There have been several recent media stories related to safety and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Because of communication and sensory challenges inherent in ASD, children and adults living on the autism spectrum are more likely to come in contact with first responders, exhibit behaviors that may be misinterpreted and wander from safety.
Here are three major programs that will help improve safety for those on the autism spectrum and their families:
In collaboration with Autism Risk and Safety Management, ASA is organizing First Responder Trainings throughout Alabama. Those with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely than others to come in contact with a first responder.
Dustin Chandler, Autism Risk and Safety Management first responder trainer, travels to law enforcement agencies and fire and rescue departments to conduct trainings. These sessions are designed to educate first responders about the challenges associated with ASD that may impair communication between an individual and a first responder.
Police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians who are trained to interact with those on the autism spectrum may avoid miscommunications, unnecessary detainments and injuries. During interactions with first responders, the challenges of language processing speed and communication skills associated with ASD may at times appear to be noncompliance or oppositional behavior when there is no intent for such behavior. Training has improved relations between first responders and community members.
ASA worked closely with the state legislature and the Alabama Department of Public Safety to develop the first Autism Identification Card in the U.S. The card can be used by anyone with ASD and was created particularly for independent teens and adults with ASD who may come in contact with first responders. The card is available at county health departments in Alabama and costs $10. The application can be printed from the Alabama Department of Public Health website or the ASA website.
The card can be carried by a child or adult and can be presented to communicate to a community member that the owner of the card may display behaviors associated with autism.
Autism Society of Alabama also advocated for Project Lifesaver, a program that can locate children or adults on the autism spectrum who wander, roam or bolt from safety. Project Lifesaver is in 61 of Alabama’s 67 counties so far. Families are encouraged to contact their county sheriff’s department to request the Project Lifesaver wrist or ankle bracelet. The bracelet emits a tracking signal that can be used to locate a lost loved one. The program has no cost, or a nominal fee to the participant. The bracelet is put on by the sheriff’s department, is waterproof and difficult to remove.
Bama Hager, Ph.D. is a parent of a 15-year-old son who has autism. She is program and policy director at the Autism Society of Alabama.
Autism Society of Alabama
(Information, resources, safety programs)
Bama Hager, email@example.com
Autism Risk and Safety Management
(First responder training)
Alabama Department of Public Health
(Autism Identification Card application)
(Wrist or ankle bracelets to locate a loved one)