As people with ASD and other developmental disabilities become more meaningfully incorporated in mainstream life, it seems inevitable that opportunities for interaction with police or emergency personnel will increase. And so too can the opportunities for misunderstanding.
For families of those on the spectrum, it’s easy to imagine all the ways that an encounter with a first responder can go wrong. Stress reactions, communication barriers, wandering, avoidance of eye contact, erratic behavior can all be potential problems for a person with ASD, and can dangerously complicate a first responder’s ability to read and understand the situation.
On September 30th, from 9 to 12 at Charlottesville High School’s Martin Luther King Performing Arts Center, a public forum will be held on Developmental Disabilities and Public Safety. The Forum is organized by Charlottesville Region Autism Action Group (CRAAG), The Virginia Institute of Autism (VIA), Blue Ridge Care Connection for Children, The Arc of the Piedmont, Region 10 Community Service Board, and REACH – Region 1. It will feature open discussion between family members, disability advocates, and officials from Fire, Police, EMS and 911.
“One of our goals is to make sure everyone understands how those with autism and other disabilities may react in an emergency,” said Bob Kreps, Chairperson of CRAAG. “Another is to make sure first responders know how to minimize fear and anxiety for the individual and family.”
The Forum will include a panel discussion and audience Q & A to share information and promote collaboration. Panelists include first responders, mental health crisis experts, and family/caregivers of individuals with disabilities. Uniformed officers will be on site with emergency equipment. Demonstrations of equipment and meet-and-greet with first responders will complement the panel discussion.
This is a great opportunity for family and advocates to come together with law and emergency personnel to increase understanding and increase public safety in our community. Please plan on attending. Advance registration at autismva.org is requested, but not required.