Hopebridge Helps Children and First Responders Get to Know Each other
One in five children with autism spectrum disorder will have an encounter with a first responder before turning 21, according to an article in a University of Virginia newsletter. These encounters can often elicit strong reactions from children with autism. Many first responders lack training in how to properly interact with children on the autism spectrum safely. Hopebridge Autism Therapy Center works to help children with autism spectrum disorders and first responders understand each other better, and also offers tips on how parents can help their children be more comfortable with first responders.
First Responder Days
Hopebridge offers responder meet and greet days at many of its centers. Police, firefighters, and EMTs come to the centers with their vehicles and, sometimes, with their dogs. The children meet the first responders, tour their vehicles, try on their gear, and receive gifts. The centers also offer law enforcement tours to improve familiarity and comfort among the children and first responders.
Tips for Parents
Familiarity and preparation are critical to helping children on the autism spectrum become comfortable with first responders. Parents can help their children by supporting them in building behavioral and speech skills that will keep them safe. They can also make their home safe if their child is prone to elopement.
When their children are young, they can read to them about first responders helping people. They can arrange meetings between first responders and their child where the child can see the gear and vehicles and take the child to the fire or police station. They can also role-play with their children by interacting with first responders trying to help them.
Parents can also become advocates for localities and other organizations to provide training for first responders on how to interact with children on the autism spectrum. The training helps first responders recognize the symptoms of ASD and provides sensitivity training. It also helps them keep stimuli to a minimum.
With familiarity, proper training, and preparation, children with ASD can have positive encounters with first responders.