Autism training for first responders offered Aug. 11

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By Rachel King
Opelika Observer

Autism risk and safety management will be offered to first responders and members of the community Aug. 11 in Lee County.
The training lasts four hours and will be held at the TK Davis Justice Center in Opelika said Luanne Helms, Autism Society of Alabama Opelika Area Coordinator.
Hosting the event will be Dennis Debbaudt, autism risk and safety management professional investigator and law enforcement trainer.
Debbaudt has a son, Brad, who has Autism, and has spent his life writing educational books on how to interact with the Autistic community.
All public safety members are encouraged to take part in training. Helms said that social workers, emergency room staff and juvenile court members all could benefit from the course.
According to Helms, the training sessions are aimed at educating first responders and the public about the challenges associated with autism.
“Our children are seven times more likely to come into contact with a first responder,” Helms said. “They might misunderstand an autistic child’s behavior or even the parent’s behavior and that’s what we want to avoid.”
The sessions will provide instructions on how to interpret behavior in order to avoid miscommunication that could lead to a violate situation.
Reviewing de-escalation tips, learning search and rescue methods as well as being taught what Autism is will all be a part of the course.
“It’s important to understand how autism works,” Helms said. “Just because you meet one child with autism doesn’t mean you’ve met them all, and that’s the most important thing to know.”
The program is in its third year servicing surrounding counties and parts of Georgia.
According to Helms, 180 first responders are currently trained and this year’s class is expected to have more than 70 participants.
“It’s a win win,” Helms said. “The first responders benefit and so does the community.”

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