Autism & Informed Response
Parent trainers are needed for the Autism and Informed Response (AIR) program. AIR is an awareness training program for police, firefighters and EMS personnel that was developed by the S.C. Autism Society. Parents and ASA chapters throughout the U.S. are using the AIR video, curriculum, and handouts to train their local emergency responders.
Parents Jeff Mense and Bob Derr, Deputy Fire Chief in Myrtle Beach, have teamed up to train the Myrtle Beach Police Department. This is what Jeff has to say about this important training:
"There's been a tremendous advantage to doing the training from my point of view. One of the things both Bob and I have done is to make sure every police officer knows where our child lives and how to get hold of us."
Parent trainers have found that emergency personnel tend to really listen when they describe actual incidents or potential emergencies involving their child. Parent trainers have great credibility and add an important “personal touch” to information about autism.
Remember, AIR training is not just about children with autism, but also adults with autism. In fact, adult males are probably at the greatest risk for emergency situations in our communities. This is where informed police interactions are most needed.
Parents who hold jobs in public safety make especially credible trainers. For example, when you see a police officer talking to other police officers, those officers take notice. The same goes for firefighters, paramedics and EMTs when they train “their own.”
“To be honest, it can be a little intimidating when you first talk to officers,” parent-trainer Carol Niederhauser shared. “And sometimes we need to be careful about the attitudes we project. Overall, we have found that these are professionals who want to do the right thing. They welcome the information we provide. When they learn what our families' experience on a daily basis, they will be better prepared to handle situations involving both children and adults with autism. Just a little awareness could go a long way.”
If you haven’t already, read “Protecting the Child or Adult with Autism,” a brochure published with AIR funding. The S.C. Developmental Disabilities Council, Office of the Governor provided funding for the AIR project in a 3-year grant that ended in June 2001.