Understanding autism is essential for first responders in their effort to execute effective and safe responses to emergencies involving people with the disorder in Newfoundland and Labrador.
That is something recognized by the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services.
Since March, the two agencies, with help from the Lions Club of Newfoundland and Labrador, have been involved in training sessions to raise awareness of the unique disorder and the challenges it can present to those first responders.
Other first responders — such as paramedics, search and rescue, and police officers — have participated in sessions held throughout central, western, and eastern parts of the province.
A person with autism spectrum disorder often thrives on routine. Disruptions to routine that can create reactions such as panic and rage. Sometimes, autistic people can hide from first responders, as opposed to seeking or accepting their assistance.
That is the type of basic knowledge Treshana Gosse of the Autism Society has been passing along to the first responders. The fact a firefighter in full gear — breathing apparatus, hose, axe — can be making their way through a smoke- or fire-filled house in search of them is a scary situation that poses a number of challenges. How to communicate with a person with autism spectrum disorder is one of the biggest keys, Gosse said.