The Importance of First Responder Training and Autism

Guest Blog Post by Joel Manzer, Lead Editor

Over the years we’ve seen countless reports of Autistic individuals who have been reported missing.  Sadly, the subject of elopement is a common one within the Autism community, with as much as 50% of autism families needing an extra layer of service to address this issue.

It’s a scary situation when a child disappears and the parents don’t know where they are at.  In fact, it’s one of the worst feelings imaginable. I can’t tell you how many stories have been shared on both Autisable and on theAutismDad websites about the subject of elopement.  It is truly heart-wrenching at times when you hear the result and it’s not a positive one.

With elopement being an issue for so many autism families, some parents have gone through great lengths as to barricade doors and windows so they can get enough sleep through the night.  But even with all of these efforts, their child may still find a way to elope.

When an autistic child elopes, often they are non-verbal and they are fearless.  To them, they are just exploring and having fun – however, they most likely don’t know what risks they are putting themselves in.

It is encouraging to regularly see the efforts of Project Lifesaver International.  I smile when I see reports of another autistic child found safe and sound because families and first responders work together to keep their children safe.  

I call Project Lifesaver International the silent savior in the autism community.  We don’t often hear of their efforts because, by the time a child is reported to first responders, they are typically located and returned home within an hour or so of being on site.  This happens so quickly that even local news agencies don’t have time to respond if they hear about it.

Project Lifesaver has worked very well in the Hampton Roads Area of Virginia.  Their efforts in training local law enforcement in how to respond to a situation that involves an autistic individual has paid dividends.  Not just in locating those who elope, but also in addressing something as simple as a house call because a passerby thought there was a domestic disturbance, when in fact the autistic individual was having a serious meltdown due to sensory issues.

Police have to respond when called upon, and when they are properly trained in addressing these situations it makes for a very positive experience.

So, if you’re a parent looking for a way to help your Autistic child that has a tendency to elope, or if you’re a first responder, I highly encourage you to seriously consider working with Project Lifesaver International.  They’ve helped the Autism community by bringing our loved ones home.