Autism awareness is essential for first responders because there is wide variation in the ways that those with autism may behave, communicate and interact.
Some things individuals on the autism spectrum may struggle with include emergency lights and sounds or being touched. For some individuals with autism, these can trigger anxiety and lead to outbursts that could look like noncompliance with the instructions of first responders who are trying to help.
The likelihood of a first responder interacting with a person on the autism spectrum is increasing. In a March 2023 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that the number of individuals diagnosed with autism increased between 2018 and 2020, from 1 in 44 children in 2018 to 1 in 36 children in 2020.
Awareness resources for first responders
Information and awareness training that can assist first responders in recognizing symptoms of autism and developing best practices for interacting with those who have autism during a response are available from Autism Speaks: Autism Safety Project and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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