The Delaware County Department of Emergency Services partnered with PAAutism.org to host a two-day autism training for Law Enforcement Officers on March 19 and 20. The program was designed to educate officers about interaction with residents with autism. The program focused on tools and strategies for law enforcement including communication, arrest, transport, intake, and interviews. Members of law enforcement from across the county participated in the training to better understand the unique needs of those on the Autism Spectrum.
The Pennsylvania Autism Census reports there are approximately 55,000 residents in Pennsylvania with autism receiving services. The Autism Spectrum is a very large spectrum and encompassing a range of challenges such as communication, social behavior, sensory and impulse control issues. It is essential for first responders to understand autism and be prepared to respond effectively and safely to situations that arise involving individuals on the spectrum.
A person with autism might:
Have an impaired sense of danger.
Wander to bodies of water, traffic or other dangers.
Be overwhelmed by police presence.
Fear a person in uniform (ex. fire turnout gear) or exhibit curiosity and reach for objects/equipment (ex. shiny badge or handcuffs).
React with "fight" or "flight".
Not respond to "stop" or other commands.
Have delayed speech and language skills.
Not respond to his/her name or verbal commands.
Avoid eye contact.
Engage in repetitive behavior (ex. rocking, stimming, hand flapping, spinning).
Have sensory perception issues.
Have epilepsy or seizure disorder.
Understanding the unique needs of our residents with autism is beneficial to our first responders who are arriving at a scene.
Resources on autism can be found here: www.paautism.org