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Seminar Teaches Area First Responders How To Deal With People On Autism Spectrum

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(Scott Bailey provides tips for quickly detecting whether a person may be autistic.  Credit: Michelle Durham)

(Scott Bailey provides tips for quickly detecting whether a person may be autistic. Credit: Michelle Durham)

Michelle Durham Michelle Durham
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By Michelle Durham

UPPER GWYNEDD, Pa. (CBS) — NHS Human Services, a Montgomery County social services agency, has teamed up with members of law enforcement to develop a training seminar to educate first responders on how to deal with people who are on the autism spectrum.

Upper Gwynedd Chief of Police David Duffy helped put the seminar together. He says there are certain strategies that police and fire need to employ.

“(They) probably won’t be able to understand or follow commands right away,” he says. “and that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to cooperate, so we have to be patient, direct and also work with caregivers.”

But Duffy says members of the public are often at any emergency scene before they arrive. Here’s how they can help.

“When the first responders get there,” he says, “Say…’I’ve been here for a few minutes, theses are the things I’ve seen.'”

NHS Vice President for Children’s Services Karen Markle says the statistics are sobering.

“It is seven times more likely that individuals on the spectrum will engage in some sort of activity with law enforcement,” she says, “whether they are the victim, the perpetrator or the witness.”

So she says it’s important that everyone be sensitive and aware of the needs and behaviors of those with autism.

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