Westport firefighter/paramedics from Group 3 recently took part in a three hour lecture on autism awareness geared toward the first responder in an emergency.
"Firefighters and EMTs are always training to handle emergencies," the department said, and given that autism is among the fastest growing disabilities, it is vital that rescuers be aware of and trained in the communications challenges.
Seekonk firefighter/paramedic Anthony Pucino, who has been trained to effectively interact with individuals with autism, was the lead instructor.
The training aims to help first responders recognize autism symptoms and provide care to people with autism. It is meant to give students the tools needed to effectively communicate with autistic individuals, as well as help reduce or eliminate dangerous behaviors. It also is designed to give parents and caregivers of those with autism piece of mind, knowing that first responders in their community are prepared for any type of emergency when their loved ones are involved.
New statistics show that at least a million children and adults have a diagnosis of autism or a related disorder such as Asperger syndrome or "pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified," also known as P.D.D.-N.O.S. One out of every 88 children in the U.S. is born with some level of autism — this is up 78 percent in the past decade.