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Abilene Hosts Autism First Responder Training Program

Tuesday, the Autism and Law Enforcement Coalition teamed up with REACH to train first responders on how to deal with autistic individuals in emergency situations.
Retired firefighter Bill Cannata joined the Autism and Law Enforcement Coalition (ALEC) in 2003. He has a child with autism and feels its extremely important for the safety of everyone involved for first responders to be properly trained to deal with individuals with autism. "Our final goal through the autism society of America is to reach out to anybody that is going to have contact with people with autism so they have a better understanding," says Cannata.

This program is one of a kind. There are a total of 15 trained professionals that host these training sessions and have reached over 40,000 first responders nationwide since 2003.

"We needed to develop a program so that they would better understand children and adults with autism, so that they could have better interactions with them out in the field," Cannata says.

It started as a group of individuals with a common goal: the safety of their loved ones.

Cannata stated that they came together as a group of concerned families with autistic children that worry about them having contact with first response officials.

No two autistic children are alike and it is important for first responders to understand how to deal with each unique individual, as well as to understand what signs to look for when responding to an emergency.

The ALEC coordinated with the REACH for a DIfference program in Abilene to make this week of training seminars possible. Stephanie, the chairman of the REACH for a difference group, feels that this training could save lives, and not only the lives of the individuals with autism, but also the first responders. Cannata says because of the training, responders will be more likely to pick out a person with autism when they arrive on the scene.

Parents who wish to learn more about autism and emergency situations can come to a parent training session later this week. This session will cover different types of safety situations for parents and to give them the education and the tools available to help out with their families. It is also a good opportunity to connect with the responders in the community and alert them in the instance of an emergency you have a loved one with special needs.

For more information on training programs available, click here.
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