First responders learned how to deal with autism at a training event in Rochester on Tuesday.
The Irondequoit and Rochester Police were just a few in attendance, learning what to do – and not to do – in an emergency situation.
For Lawana Jones, videos of arrests and confrontations adults and teenagers with autism have had with first responders hit close to home.
Jones’ daughter is autistic, and she says it could have been her in any of them.
“She is minimally verbal,” Jones said. “She answers yes to everything, which to an investigator, you’re asking a question, she’s going to answer yes. ‘Did you commit a crime?’ ‘Yes.’”
Irondequoit Police Officer Mark Bean learned how to better deal with a legal or medical emergency involving someone who has autism.
“We thought we knew how to calmly talk to somebody and diffuse that person down, but now we learned there’s a lot more,” said Bean. “How they react to lights, sirens, our tone in our voice – and how we react with them.”
The training involved tactics like those – and tips.
“Giving people more time, more space, managing the environment, keeping communication simple to speak in verbal bullet points,” Bean explained.
Dennis Debbaudt has a son on the spectrum and says training is key, because a person with autism can be set off easily and have trouble communicating to emergency responders.
Debbaudt also says the rate of diagnosis is higher now than it has been in the past.
“The rate of autism in 2016 is thought to be one in 68 Americans,” he said. “So there’s a lot more people with autism in our society.”
For Jones, the training is going to help her sleep a little easier at night.
“It would make me a little more at ease knowing she may have an interaction with an officer,” Jones said.