In recent months, several episodes of conflict between individuals with autism and police officers and other first responders have occurred across the country. In response, the Autism Training Center of Giant Steps Illinois developed a series of trainings, entitled “The Face of Autism in Our Community: Autism’s Impact on Families and Communities,” designed to increase the ability of community members to identify individuals with autism and effectively interact with them during normal times as well as in moments of crisis. A grant from the Coleman Foundation funded the development of this training and various visual support systems that are given to participants in training sessions.
Training material was developed which supported eleven training sessions given to a variety of community entities (town hall meetings, community panels, parent groups, high school students/staff). A special focus was placed on community first responders (police and fire personnel) and a train-the-trainer curriculum was developed for this audience and given to state and local personnel.
· 85 first responders received training from this development within the first year of this project’s inception
· 255 other community members have received training from this development
· Another 270 first responders will receive this training in early 2010
· A Train the Trainer Manual, Regular 1st Responder Manual and Visual Support Cards, used to facilitate communication between responders and individuals with autism, were developed.
Key Lesson Learned: While interest in training is strong, resources are limited
While there is strong interest in this training on the part of other first responder organizations, it has been a challenge for these departments to fund training from their operating budgets. Giant Steps initially anticipated the ability to offer trainings on a fee basis. This assumption has been challenged in the early months of implementation and the organization is seeking other means by which to support this program.
Key Lesson Learned: It is important to incorporate direct contact between first responders and individuals with autism during training
When it has been possible, training has occurred in the