It’s important for all first responders as well as parents and educators within the community to understand autism-related safety risks, particularly dangerous wandering.
That’s why Stratford SEPTA (special education PTA) is bringing nationally-known expert Dennis Debbaudt to town for three training sessions in April, which is National Autism Awareness month.
Debbaudt, who lives in Florida and whose son Brad was diagnosed with autism in 1987, has spent nearly two decades training and developing training materials for law enforcement, first response, and criminal justice professionals throughout the U.S. and beyond -- including for U.S. Department of Homeland Security instructors and for the New York Police Department.
The three sessions are:
- Autism Recognition, Response and Risk Management for Emergency Medical Response Professionals and Volunteers; April 9, 2013, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Fire Department Headquarters, 2750 Main St., Stratford. (for EMS only)
- Autism Recognition, Response and Risk Management for Law Enforcement, Fire-Rescue, and Emergency Medical Response; April 10, 2013, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Stratford Police Department, 900 Longbrook Ave., Stratford. (for any first responder)
- Plan Your Response for an Autism Emergency!; April 10, 2013, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Second Hill Lane Elementary School, 65 Second Hill Lane, Stratford. (for parents and educators)
The April 10 daytime session for first responders is geared toward patrol and investigative law enforcement professionals, law enforcement training officers and their supervisors, school resource officers, crisis intervention team members, computer assisted dispatch 911 telecommunicators, fire-rescue professionals/volunteers, EMS professionals and volunteers, emergency preparedness planners/responders, public safety professionals, and search and rescue professionals/volunteers. First responders from Stratford and beyond are welcome. The April 9 evening session is an abbreviated training for EMS only.
First responders will learn about autism recognition and response; predictable field contacts and 911 dispatches (with special emphasis on wandering search and rescue); situational awareness and response; de-escalation tips; restraint, arrest, and custody tips; tips for interview; model programs; and cross-educational opportunities for officers, children, and adults who have autism, their families, and supporters.
Attendees will come away with a good, practical understanding of effective approaches when interacting with individuals affected by autism spectrum disorders.
The aims are to increase responder and citizen safety, enhance responder communication/response skills, save valuable time/resources, avoid litigation, and build community partnerships.
"In an emergency situation, families of children with autism have extra worries,” said Stratford SEPTA President Stacy Barnaby. “There may be challenges such as the child being extremely frightened of anyone in uniform, or of sirens, that make it difficult for first responders to safely tend to their needs without creating an even greater emergency situation.
"We are so pleased that Stratford’s many first responder groups have made a commitment to learn more about autism, which affects an estimated 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls in the United States. That commitment will help provide peace of mind to the many families in our own community who have children or adults on the autism spectrum.”
The April 10 evening training is designed for parents, family members, and supporters of people who are on the autism spectrum, persons on the spectrum themselves, autism professionals, educators (teachers, paraprofessionals, supervisors), non-teaching staff (including those working in maintenance, food service, and transportation), human and social services professionals, adult and child care professionals, community recreation and library professionals, and vocational and employment specialists.
Attendees will better understand issues of autism-related risk; learn to help manage these risks at home, at school, and in the community (including prevention, alert, and response plans for dangerous wandering); identify the best options for developing partnerships with law enforcement, first response, and criminal justice agencies (including ID cards, 911 registries, and other disclosure options); and learn what their roles are in minimizing victimization of persons with autism.
“This training will bring us full circle in preparing our community for emergencies, plus preventing them. As parents of children with autism, we must be aware of the risk factors that could make an emergency situation worse,” Barnaby said.
“It’s also vital that educators and anyone who have children in their care -- from child care professionals to school food service workers -- understand autism and the reactions that those with autism may have to various situations. Those who attend this session will walk away with strategies to help prevent dangerous situations and respond to them in the most effective way if they do occur.”
“We are thrilled to have Dennis coming all the way to Connecticut to provide these training sessions,” Barnaby added. “He is an amazing presenter and the opportunity to learn from him will truly make a difference in our community.”
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org by April 6. Continuing education credits may be available to attendees.
The mission of Stratford Special Education PTA is to support, educate, and inspire. The non-profit organization brings together parents, families, and educators to share their experiences and perspectives, provides parents with information on navigating the special education system, increases the community’s understanding of exceptional children’s abilities to reach their full potential, and enriches the lives of children and their families through educational and social opportunities. Stratford SEPTA also celebrates the individuality and unique abilities of all children. The organization is for anyone who cares about a child with any kind of individual difference that poses challenges in school and beyond. Visit www.stratfordsepta.org for more information and to become a member, or like our Facebook page, “Stratford Septa,” for event summaries, information, and inspiration.