| Dennis Debbaudt's Autism Risk
& Safety Newsletter July 2004
of Emergency Medical Services Reports on Autism
The Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) June 2004 issue
features a report by Loralee Olejnik "Understanding Autism: How to
appropriately & safely approach, assess & manage autistic
My friend and colleague, San Diego Fire Department Captain Ralph
Carrasquillo, is an autism dad who oversees the administration staff
for the EMS Division. Ralph's been actively training first response and
law enforcement professionals in the San Diego area for several years.
His work is featured prominently in this report.
Loralee Olejnik is a communications instructor at San Diego State
University and a journalist working with San Diego Medical Services
Enterprise, the City of San Diego's 9-1-1 paramedic program.
I was honored to be interviewed for and contribute material to this
Here's an online link to the report that includes photos & sidebars:
Understanding Autism: How to appropriately &
safely approach, assess & manage autistic patients
Olejnik JEMS June, 2004
response engine responds to an apartment complex to care for a
six-year-old child with a complaint of difficulty breathing. The little
boy is very upset and ³acting out.² He doesn't seem to
respond in an age-appropriate manner and is becoming more agitated,
although remaining alert and oriented. Specific instruction and eye
contact have no effect.
You're beginning to think this child is a ³spoiled brat.² The
ambulance arrives, and the paramedic crew also attempts to gain
control. The child seems fascinated by the lights and activity. His
eyes dart from object to object as he asks numerous questions. When you
physically try to place the child onto the gurney to assess him on a
more comfortable surface, he becomes hysterical and uncontrollable.
At this point the child's mother informs you that her son is autistic.
Wow! If only you had known that from the beginning. Would it have made
a difference? Do you really know the implications of this to you, the
Captain Ralph Carrasquillo Jr., a paramedic and instructor for the San
Diego Fire-Rescue Department, does. When his five-year-old son was
diagnosed with autism, educating other first responders and medical
personnel on autistic patients became a cause close to his heart.
³When I first heard the term autistic, the only thing I
thought of was Rainman,² says Carrasquillo. ³I didn't
really know much. I've educated myself about my son, but I wanted to
share that information with everybody.²
Carrasquillo has taught more than a thousand fire and EMS personnel in
San Diego County to improve their interactions with autistic patients,
especially children. He modeled his lesson plans after those developed
by Dennis Debbaudt, a Florida private investigator who also has an
autistic autistic son and who took on the cause of educating law
enforcement officers in the early 1990s.
Through their in-service training courses, and‹coming soon‹lessons for
new recruits at police academies, San Diego County emergency responders
are benefiting from education on the disorder. Firefighters, EMTs and
paramedics increasingly must take a proactive approach in learning how
to recognize and work with autistic patients, to better provide for
their welfare and safety and to better protect themselves and their
departments from liability.
³It makes me feel great that I've helped [an autistic] person's
life and that family's interaction with us,² says Carrasquillo.
³What's close to my heart also is the fact that we're keeping my
Carrasquillo's work is especially effective with emergency response
personnel because he's one of their own. ³There's nothing like
hearing it from your colleagues,² says Debbaudt, who writes books
and conducts autism workshops for emergency responders around the
world. ³Ralph brings that credibility to the table. His
passion‹it's something you can't buy and can't hide.²
According to the Autism Society of America (ASA), autism is a
neurological disorder that typically appears during the first three
years of life. It specifically affects brain function in the areas
responsible for the development of communication and social interaction
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics place the
prevalence of the disorder at two to six per 1,000 people, and
estimates are that one in 150-250 children younger than 10 years old in
California alone have autism. It is four times more prevalent in boys
than in girls, is not affected by race or socioeconomic level and is
not caused by misguided parenting activities.
The exact cause of autism is unknown, although there may be links to
genetics and brain injury. It has also been linked (controversially) to
thimerosal, a mercury-laced preservative present in many childhood
vaccines. Some autistic people have abnormally high levels of mercury
in their bodies, and those levels have been linked to the cumulative
effect of immunizations. Although thimerosal has been removed from the
MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, it is still present in others,
and there's an active campaign to have mercury-based preservatives
removed from all vaccines. At this time, there's no known cure for
Autism is one of several disorders that fall under the umbrella
category of Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), along with
Asperger's Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD), Rett's
Disorder and PDD-Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS) (ASA, 2003).
(Note: Several decades ago, autism and learning disabilities
tended to be lumped beneath one diagnostic umbrella of ³minimal
brain dysfunctions,² and then physicians would add ³autistic
tendencies² or ³high-functioning autism² to further
differentiate from severe autism. The DSM was re-configured, and many
disorders were ³renamed²[as with ADD or ADHD] or named after
physicians who did early research into that specific disorder, as with
Asperger's syndrome‹named after Hans Asperger who did the first serious
research into what was known as high-functioning autism. Thus, today,
many who would have been diagnosed 30 years ago as high-functioning
autistic are diagnosed as having Asperger's.)
Although individuals with autism may otherwise appear perfectly normal,
the disorder makes it difficult for them to function and communicate in
socially appropriate ways. The inability to be understood may cause
frustration and confusion for both patients and those interacting with
them, and often makes the autistic person appear to be acting
abnormally or in a bizarre manner. In addition, their lack of eye
contact and repetitive, nervous movements, called stimming,
often cause emergency responders to mistakenly assume autistic patients
are on drugs.
Those diagnosed with autism can exhibit such a tremendous variation of
symptoms that they are said to fall on a spectrum. No two individuals
display the exact same behaviors or symptoms, which can range from
individuals who are severely affected by uncontrollable body movement
and an inability to communicate to highly functioning, highly educated
persons who suffer only mild problems in communicating and with
Most autistic patients have food allergies and intolerances, and some
thrive on a gluten-free and casein-free diet (no wheat, no dairy). Diet
won't ³cure² autism, but for some autistics, it makes dealing
with the condition easier.
Although only 0.001% of the general population experience seizures,
they are a common symptom in autistic patients, occurring in 25% of
autistics. Many autistics have heightened visual acuity (e.g., some can
discern the 60-cycle frequency of fluorescent lighting and/or the
cycling of a computer or TV screen). Some are sensitive to flashing
lights (e.g., strobe lights or pen lights directed at the eyes), which
can trigger seizures. This can present unique problems for emergency
responders attempting to assess or treat autistic patients.
Due to increased education and awareness of the disorder, the rate of
reported autism is growing at more than 10% per year, and the ASA
projects that 4 million Americans will be diagnosed as autistic during
the next decade. This correspondingly increases the chances that
emergency medical personnel will encounter autistic patients in the
field. In fact, statistics show that autistic children and adults are
seven times more likely to have contact with law enforcement or EMS
than a member of the general public.
Efforts to mainstream autistics as an alternative to
institutionalization have also resulted in a greater number who can
function independently in society. Therefore, when first responders
arrive on scene, a caretaker may not be available to inform them of the
individual's condition, unlike our scenario, which makes looking for
telltale signs of autism even more important.
A first responder may come into contact with an autistic individual on
a medical emergency call or even calls for missing children or adults
because autistic persons, similar to Alzheimer's patients, will
sometimes run away from caretakers.
This activity, called elopement or running, is one of
the greatest threats to autistic patients, and emergency responders
must take care not to quickly attribute the event to deliberate abuse
or negligence on the part of the caretaker.
Autistic children who run away are often attracted to bodies of water.
This is a dangerous combination because many show no notion of fear and
don't know how to act in emergency situations. Example: In
December, a 16-year-old autistic girl in Mesquite, Texas, died in a
fire after her mother unsuccessfully struggled to remove the girl from
their burning home. In an interview with The Dallas Morning News
regarding the tragedy, Debbaudt commented, ³Autistic people can
take longer to process information and when anxiety is enhanced, like
in a fire, they may not be able to understand the basic command.²
Debbaudt added, ³They may not understand the inherent danger and
refuse to leave until they get a stuffed animal they are attached to.
Or a person may want to re-enter a building to retrieve a pet, because
they don't understand the dangers.²
(Note: Autistics tend to learn by experience and education, but
don't possess the innate ability to detect danger. They tend to miss
non-verbal cues from the ³crowd mentality,² especially when
things are going bad. For example, autistics aren't likely to see a
punch coming until they've already hit the ground. Even if they are
aware that a situation is deteriorating, they may not know what to do
about it. Role-playing, scenarios and detailed preparation are
essential for autistics to function well in any environment.)
Working with autistic patients
Because so many potential risks are involved to both the patient and
the first responder, extra caution is needed when dealing with autistic
individuals. Tips for recognizing a person with autism (as
adapted from course curriculum):
How you store your
equipment can make a huge difference to autistics, who have great
difficulty dealing with change and/or ³out of order²
materials. Hastily wadded ECG cables (inset) are going to agitate your
patient. If they're neatly wrapped, you're less likely to have a
problem. PHOTOS COURTNEY McCAIN
- May have
limited range of speech or vocabulary (50% are non-verbal);
- May appear
argumentative, stubborn or belligerent;
- May exhibit
echolalic (repeats what you say) or rambling speech or speak in a
monotone or singsong voice. They might speak in high- or low-pitched
tones or in whispers. Also, autistics quickly pick up regional accents,
and their speech patterns can alter (often unconsciously) in the
presence of a different accent;
- May exhibit
unusual or repetitive physical actions or self-stimulating behavior,
including hand flapping, finger flicking, spinning objects or
self-rocking back and forth;
- May give an
inappropriate response or no response (may appear deaf or like they
don't care what you're saying);
- May not be able
to give important information or answer simple questions;
- Are usually
very honest; don't lie and are very blunt;
- May be
sensitive to touch, sound, bright lights, odors or animals;
- May have
difficulty judging personal space‹may stand too close or too far away;
- May have
information pertaining to their condition on an ID card/bracelet or
Suggestions on how
to approach an autistic patient:
- Approach in a
quiet, non-threatening manner, reducing noise and stimuli as much as
- Don't crowd;
leave as much room as possible;
- Incorporate the
caregiver (if one is present) into the call as much as possible, and
solicit from them suggestions on how best to deal with the individual;
- Talk in direct,
short phrases using simple language: Avoid double meanings, slang or
³joking around.² Autistics tend to take things literally. On
the flip side, be prepared for a ³little professor² speech
pattern, particularly in young patients. Many high-functioning
autistics read early and develop an extensive vocabulary at a young
age. They're likely to launch into a long-winded, advanced conversation
about a particular interest. Looking for common ground in interests or
educating them about EMS (they're likely to ask many questions) can
help develop a rapport;
- Allow for
delayed responses to questions or commands;
- Talk calmly and
repeat questions and information if necessary; talking louder does not
- Avoid touching
(especially the shoulders and face) unless necessary for the physical
exam. The patient may be sensitive to touch and cry out. Some might
jerk away, as if they were burned or touched with something very hot;
- Evaluate the
patient for injury with a thorough secondary exam; they may have a high
tolerance for pain;
- Use all
available information: the patient's name, age, appearance, bystander
statements, types of behaviors exhibited, etc. Find out exactly what's
- Consider using
a clipboard, tablet or a computer with responses displayed: yes/no, the
alphabet, simple phrases, pictures. Before using a computer, however,
to help assess an autistic patient, ask if they've ever experienced
seizures. If they have, use caution with computer screens and pen
- If a patient
needs to be restrained, approach them from the side. Autistic people
tend to throw their head back when being restrained.
surfaces are especially difficult for autistics because of the patterns
and rough edges. Many formerly cooperative, ambulatory autistics might
see this rear ambulance bumper and refuse to step onto it. If that
happens, explain that the metal is shaped like that so no one will slip
and fall. PHOTOS COURTNEY McCAIN
Carrasquillo said he
gets the biggest satisfaction when coworkers tell him that they have
utilized these tips when they encounter an autistic patient. ³They
tell me they used the techniques and haven't had to wrestle a patient
to the ground. When I hear that, I feel like I have made a
Through education and application of this information in the field, all
first responders can improve their interactions with autistic patients,
thus elevating the overall quality of service and making a difference
in their communities as a whole.
Anderson KS: ³Autistic girl dies in blaze. Officials:
She struggled with Mesquite mother who tried to save her.²The
Dallas Morning News. Dec. 15, 2003
2. Autism Society of America home page: http://www.autism-society.org
. Accessed Feb. 26, 2004.
3. Autistic Society home page:
www.autisticsociety.org. Accessed Feb. 26, 2004.
4. Centers for Disease Control and
5. Curry K, Posluszny M., Kraska S: Training
Criminal Justice Personnel to Recognize Offenders with Disabilities.
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services News in Print,
Washington, D.C.: 1993.
6. Debbaudt D: ³Managing autism
safety.²Advocate. 36(2):27-30, 2003.
7. Debbaudt D: ³Avoiding
unfortunate situations." http://policeandautism.cjb.net/
Accessed Feb. 28, 2004.
Loralee Olejnik is a communication instructor at San
Diego State University and a freelance journalist working with San
Diego Medical Services Enterprise, the City of San Diego's 9-1-1
9. Ralph Carrasquillo Jr. is a captain for San Diego Fire-Rescue and
oversees the administrative staff for the EMS Division. If you have any
questions concerning working with autistic patients, contact him at
Autism Spectrum Quarterly Premier Issue
Autism Spectrum Quarterly
(Formerly the Jenison Autism Journal / The Morning News, edited by
Diane Twachtman-Cullen, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief; Liane Holliday Willey,
Ed.D., Senior Editor
Autism Spectrum Quarterly brings you the quality that
you expect from a professional journal, with the readability and
practicality of a high-quality magazine - and much more.
- Internationally renowned advisory board
- Articles by, for, and about individuals with ASD
- Cutting edge information from the world of scientific research
- A focus on families and family issues
- Tips and practical strategies for dealing with a variety of
- Reviews of books and resource materials
- A spotlight on best practices: Each issue will feature an
educator, clinician, or paraprofessional whose work on behalf of
those with ASD has been exemplary.
ASQ features a 21-member international advisory board including many of
the most well-respected individuals in the ASD community such as:
Tony Attwood, Simon Baron-Cohen, Catherine Lord, Nancy Minshew,
and Lorna Wing,
The premier issue of Autism Spectrum Quarterly, due out in
August, features outstanding contributions from the following
Alyson Beytien - You too?! Common Stories from
an Uncommon Parent
Walter Coles & Dennis Debbaudt - The Role of the
Family-School Liaison Counselor
Cathy Pratt, Ph.D. - School Cultures that Support
Students Across the Autism Spectrum
Judith Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, LCSW& Robert Ullman, ND
- A Drug Free Approach to ASD: Exceptional Medicine for Exceptional
Robert Rosenbloom, M.D. - Baseball, Hot Dogs, and
Liane Holliday Willey, Ed.D. - Protecting Aspies
The fall issue will be published in October. It will
feature articles covering issues related to both children and adults
with ASD. Fall authors include: Dr. Julie Donnelly, Linda
Hodgdon, Dr. David Holmes, Susan Moreno, and Stephen Shore.
For more information and
to register online log onto www.ASQuarterly.com http://www.asquarterly.com/>
. Email your questions to ASQmagazine@aol.com.
Working together is underrated. I've presented with
Walter Coles in the past and am grateful to Diane Twachtman-Cullen and
Liane Holliday Willey for giving us the chance to collaborate on the
ASQ article. Walter and I'll co-present again in New Brunswick this
I've also had the fantastic experience of presenting with Stephen Shore
in Massachusetts and having him sit in with me at the ASA conference
last week. And the experience of co-presenting with U.S. Deputy Marshal
Nick Proffitt was a thrill. Nick and I have worked on this issue for
almost ten years together, co-developed materials and stayed in regular
contact but had never met in person until this past spring in Virginia.
We're working on several new educational tools and I'll report on this
in a future newsletter.
Now I'll have the chance to work with Lianne Holliday Willey in
September in Grand Rapids. We've worked together on books, now we'll
get to work together live. I'm really looking forward to this!
It's through these collaborations that we get instant feedback,
criticism and different points of view. It sharpens the mind and
without question vastly improves the work.
Thank you, my friends! Let's do this more often!
Department's Take Me Home Database Debuts
The seeds were sown for this innovative special needs assistance
program when Pensacola, Florida PD Officer Jimmy Donohoe attended a
meeting last summer of the Panhandle Chapter of the Autism Society of
America. Officer Donohoe heard first-hand the concerns that many
parents there had about their wandering children who have autism.
Officer Donohoe, also the parent of a special needs son, decided then
and there to do something to assist. He approached Pensacola PD Chief
John Mathis who gave the green light to spearhead the Take Me Home
The Pensacola PD worked in partnership with SmartCOP, a
Pensacola-based law enforcement technology and software company, to
develop Take Me Home.
The Take Me Home system is a database that is maintained at
the Pensacola PD of persons who may need special assistance if they are
alone. The system includes a current, digital picture, demographic
information and caregiver contacts. If a person in the Take Me Home
system is encountered by a Pensacola Police Officer, the officer can
query the Take Me Home system by name or by the person's
description to locate the person's Take Me home enrollment record. With
the information at hand the officer can appropriately assist the person.
The Take Me Home system is designed for departments that
utilize the SmartCOP onboard patrol vehicle computer
technology. Over-the-air dispatching is minimized. Caregivers can be
contacted by phone and provide key information directly to the first
responder. Take Me Home is, of course, voluntary for those who
The Pensacola Police Department was incepted in 1821 and continues to
grow not only in personnel but also in technology, training and
community outreach efforts. About Take Me Home, Chief
Mathis recently said, "We are excited to share with you this new
service designed to provide enhanced service and protection to our
citizens. I strongly believe, and try to instill the same philosophy in
others, that it is by working together that we can make Pensacola an
even better place in which to live."
When it comes to the Take Me Home program, Chief Mathis and the
Pensacola PD strive to make everywhere a better place to live. The Take
Me Home system is available to ALL public
service agencies free of charge!!!
For further information and public service agency
inquiries about Take Me Home, contact Crime Prevention Officer
Jimmy Donohoe at 850-436-5416 or email email@example.com
Kudos to Chief Mathis, Inspector Wendell Rich and Officer Jimmy Donohoe
for creating Take Me Home. Write thanks to the Chief at:
Pensacola Police Department
711 North Haynes Street
Pensacola, FL 32501
Contact SmartCOP at: 270 North Palafox Street,
Pensacola, FL 32502, phone 850-429-0082
News You Can Use
Our Friend Christina
G. scours the World Wide Web daily for disability-related and
newsworthy articles. Free of opinion, Christina's online news service
is a daily must-read for me. It's as the name suggests: News You
I get it in the daily digest version.
Subscribe directly at NewsYouCanUse@yahoogroups.com
or contact Christina directly at:
Police are Honored
for Autism Efforts
Virginia Beach, Virginia
by Margaret Windley
In late January, Beach police officer Rachel McGraw and
Mark Pantak spotted a man breaking antennas off of cars in the Lake
Edward neighborhood. When the officers approached him, the man wasn't
able to give his name or address.
"We asked him to speak and he could not talk to us," said McGraw. "But
he was doing the hand motions that are a sign of Autism." The officers
provided a pen, pencil and some paper to divert his attention and he
wrote his first name. After trying to find someone who might know him
at a local mental health organization, the officers checked the man's
clothing and found his full name. After running a check, they were able
to learn where he lived. The incident was resolved peacefully because
the officers had learned appropriate ways to work with people with
autism through Autism In Law Enforcement, developed by U.S. Deputy
Marshal, Nick Proffitt.
Chief Jacocks received a plaque from Autism Society and two officers,
Rachel McGraw and Mark Pantak, one of whom could not be present, were
honored for using their training in handling Autistic Individuals in
ceremonies on April 26 at the Law Enforcement Training Academy.
Chief A.M. Jacocks Jr. received a plaque from JoAnna Bryant,
president of the Tidewater Chapter of the Autism Society of America for
his willingness to cooperate by providing proactive police programs
that help autistic individuals and their families.
Alert Window Gels
These gels alert first responders to the presence in a vehicle of an
individual with autism. They can be used on whatever vehicle you are
using, traveling in a rental car, for instance. The multi-use, easy
on-easy off function offers great insurance! A superb autism awareness
& safety tool!
Available through Didi Zaryczny. Email Didi at
No More Communication Boards
The laminated board features 24 key communication situations. It
picture icons and words and phrases in English and Spanish as a way for
first responders to communicate with persons with autism and other
conditions, as well as non English speakers.
Contact Susan for details:
Autism & Law Enforcement Video Update
The new Autism & Law Enforcement Briefing Booklet
is now available in PDF format!
The purchase of every video comes with access to this companion
informational and educational booklet that tracks the video and offers
It's available in PDF and comes in two formats:
1) Prints out as a booklet
2) Prints out as 8 1/2 x 11
Purchasers can email their choice to firstname.lastname@example.org
and the file will be emailed to you!
The Autism & Law Enforcement video continues to receive fantastic
feedback and we're happy to announce that selected excerpts can be
viewed online at the Dan Marino Foundation ChildNett TV.
A big thanks to Doug Bartel at the Dan Marino Foundation! Here are two
NOTE: This is online TV and not perfect. The full length video itself
was recorded and edited in broadcast quality and is shipped in VHS
standard video cassette format.
Stills, information and ordering options at:
Inquiries about: Special Edits & Production Runs, Excerpts or File
Video Information, Bulk Purchase or Site License Inquiries, Pre Purchase or Review copies:
Email email@example.com or call
772-398-9756. Brad may answer the
phone. Tell him Hi! All calls will be returned!!
Book Orders Now Online
Signed copies of Autism, Advocates and Law
Enforcement Professionals: Recognizing and Reducing Risk Situations for
People with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Dennis Debbaudt, 2002,
Jessica Kingsley Publishers are now available online via PayPal at http://www.risingbird.net/asr/email.html
Rising Bird Productions
A huge thanks goes out to Teresa Soler, Brant Dutton and Tim Mueller of
Rising Bird Productions of Eugene, Oregon!! They are the talented group
who created the site for the video. We're working with them to launch
the new Autism & Law Enforcement web site. work is progressing., We
hope to launch soon.
Rising Bird Productions are top shelf Design, Publishing, Business
Services and Photography Professionals Consider them for your on or off line needs.
They're part of the autism community!!
Check out their web site at:
Autism & Airport Travel Safety Tips
Here's a reprint of an article I wrote back in 2001.
Since summer is travel time, I offer it here FYI. The article is online
Please visit the Society for Accessible Travel
AUTISM & AIRPORT TRAVEL SAFETY TIPS
A guide for parents and carers
Autism & Airport Travel Safety Tips
November 23, 2001, Port St. Lucie, Florida
By Dennis Debbaudt
Traveling through airport security will never be the same. Every
traveler passing through a security checkpoint will now encounter
waiting in long lines, having to produce two forms of picture
identification at multiple locations, mandatory questioning and
inspections of personal belongings by strangers and the increasing
likelihood of a light touch from a stranger holding a Geiger
counter-like sound producing wand. When you add to the mix the
possibility of a complete physical frisk or pat down - and the presence
and scrutiny of armed, uniformed paramilitary personnel and
contraband-sniffing dogs - the accompanying sensory-enhancing gauntlet
of sounds lights and touch can tax the system of any traveler let alone
one who has autism. This experience has quickly become standard
operating procedure at U.S. airports.
People with autism, parents and caregivers may want to consider taking
some extra measures to make passing through a security checkpoint
As daunting as a security checkpoint is for some children and adults
with autism, we must consider the point-of-view of the security
professional. The behavior or characteristics of the child or adult
with autism may make the security professional extremely anxious.
Consider the reliance on visual cues and innocent echolalia a person
with autism may display, such as repeating a phrase observed on a
close-by poster. At a security checkpoint that phrase might include
words that cite the laws or warn against the use of the words "bomb
threat" or "hijacking." Someone who repeats this phrase would quickly
come under suspicion at a security checkpoint. Those that repeat a
question, run from or blanche at passing through a metal detector, or
become over-anxious at attempts to touch them would also merit extra
scrutiny. Left unexplained, the behaviors and characteristics of some
person's with autism may delay their trip and cause unnecessary
anxiety. These encounters are the types of situations that can easily
escalate into misinterpretations, verbal and physical confrontations,
physical containment and restraint.
As reported in my latest book, Autism, Advocates and Law Enforcement
Professionals (www.jkp.com): "Those with autism, parents and caregivers
may want to consider carrying autism handout information which would at
least include a basic autism brochure, and a person-specific handout
that at least includes their picture, description, information about
behaviors that security may find suspicious and the best way a security
professional can communicate with or interact with that person. Many
parents find business card handouts that might contain a message such
as 'Perhaps my son/daughter's behavior is surprising to you. This is
because he/she has autism', a brief definition of autism, and the phone
number/website address of a local or national advocacy organization."
These are grass roots, one-on-one autism awareness campaigns. Make sure
to carry enough generic information to leave behind with the security
professionals you may encounter. Anyone reading this message can
download the informational handout "Educating the Community...and Law
Enforcement" at http://www.policeandautism.cjb.net/
make copies and hand them out.
If possible, make travel plans well in advance. Call the airlines and
security companies (soon to be mainly federalized) and ask what you can
do to help the security experience go more smoothly for the person with
autism and the security professionals they will interact with. If the
trip has to be made suddenly, arrive extra early, bring plenty of
handouts and explain to the gate agent what your needs are. Those that
have the time may want to inquire with their air carrier about
assistance plans they may offer inexperienced travelers. Northwest
Airlines, for example, offers the Adult Assistance Program for a fee
ranging from $40.00 to $75.00. This may prove to be money well spent.
The program offers personal assistance from check-in, through security
and boarding and through the destination airport.
While the program does not assist with eating, personal hygiene or
medication issues, it does provide assistance through the crucial
security checkpoints. Parents and caregivers of a passenger using
travel assist can also pass through security with their loved even if
they are not traveling with them. Special security passes would be
issued in lieu of tickets. A program like Northwest Airlines' Adult
Assistance could be utilized by caregivers even if they are traveling
with a loved one.
Anticipating the worst is never a pleasant proposition. But it's
something we do all the time in our everyday lives when we put on seat
belts, lock our back doors, pay the life insurance. The downside for
not doing these things is extremely negative in each example. But do we
shudder in fear every time we do these things? Of course not. They are
common sense options associated with everyday life. Taking extra
precautions is also an everyday consideration that those with autism
that can, parents and caregivers also become accustomed to taking. When
traveling through our communities, and airports, taking the precautions
-alerting security, carrying ID and informational handouts, considering
the needs of others, anticipating the possibilities -can help make our
trips and travel a lot safer and a lot more relaxing. Give yourself at
least two weeks to seek the best that our airlines and airport security
can offer. But it's never too late to alert the airlines and security
professionals to a special request for assistance.
Contact author for reprint permission at: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2001 by Dennis Debbaudt
Special thanks to Mike Flotteron of Northwest Airlines for his
assistance in preparing this report. Most major airlines offer programs
similar to the Adult Assistance Program. Check with your air carrier
about special travelers services they offer.
Here are links to other autism risk & safety online articles:
Beyond Guilt or Innocence, Dennis
Debbaudt, EK Shriver Journal, 2004
Contact With Individuals With Autism by
Dennis Debbaudt & Darla Rothman, Ph.D. FBI Law
Enforcement Bulletin April 2001
Edited for Sheriff Magazine Issue March-April 2002
Upcoming Conferences & Workshops
Wednesday September 15th Sunderland, United Kingdom
Autism Spectrum & Criminal Justice Seminar, University of
Sunderland. email email@example.com
Friday through Sunday September 17th, 18th & 19th
World Autism Organization General Assembly and Conference
The conference will focus on
conditions for people with autism who live in the third world
Dennis Debbaudt Autism & Law Enforcement
Session Date & Time (TBA)
More information at:
Tuesday and Wednesday
September 28th and 29th Grand
Adolescents and Young
Adults With Asperger Syndrome: The Real World
The Eberhard Center
Grand Valley State University
On the River in Downtown Grand Rapids!
Dr. Liane Holliday Willey
Dr. Richard Howlin
Dennis Debbaudt Session Wednesday 29th from 8:00 to 11:30 AM
All details at http://www.unitingparadigms.com/pages/2/index.htm
Thursday September 30th,
Green Bay, Wisconsin. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
October and beyond: Orlando ( October 5th), New Hampshire October
7th & 8th), Lake Charles, Louisiana (October 18th), Chicago (October 28th)
Bloomington, Illinois (November 3rd), St. John's, New
Brunswick-with Walter Coles (November 18th), Minneapolis (December
3rd) and others to be announced (TBA).
Several Fall dates are still
More Dates Announced Soon!!
Inquiries? Email: email@example.com or call 772-398-9756 (Brad
phone) for updates, new bookings or to schedule an event.
Now booking 2005 and beyond......
A big thanks to Pam Weiseman and Anne DeStefano of the
Florida State University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities,
everyone at the Panhandle Chapter of the Autism Society of America, and
Officer Jimmy Donohoe for welcoming me to Pensacola. Jimmy took me to
an Irish pub there that featured 250,000 one dollar bills that were
signed by customers and stapled to the ceiling. An experience I won't
soon forget! Great food, too!
I was also honored to present at the 35th ASA Conference Soaring To New
Heights in Seattle last week. A big thanks go the ASA board and the
Autism Society of Washington for all their hard work. The convention
center and Seattle were beautiful. Seeing so many old friends and
meeting new ones was the highlight for me. We had a lot of fun at the
Friday Risk & Safety session.
I also want to thank Detective Specialist / Instructor Tony Favara of
the New York Police Department's Emergency Service Unit (NYPD-ESU) for
inviting me to attend and complete the 40 hour Emergency
Psychology Technician Training Program Managing Situations
Involving Mentally Disturbed Persons. The course is a special
program of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice-City University of
New York in association with the NYPD-ESU and the NYPD Hostage
Negotiation Team (HNT). Needless to say I learned a lot during that
week in June and was honored to present to the class autism response
tips. The ESU and HNT will receive an autism training package for their
future training sessions.
On that note I've met the requirements for membership and joined the
Society for Law Enforcement Training (ASLET). From www.aslet.org
I'm dedicated to seeing autism
issues represented professionally to law enforcement, first response,
criminal justice, and emergency response professionals everywhere.
We've come a long way on this since the early 90's--yet there's still a
long way to go. With your help, we'll get there.
American Society for Law Enforcement Training (ASLET) has
been described as the "Association for those who teach and those
who want to learn and improve law enforcement training." We
are dedicated to enhancing and promoting excellence in law
enforcement training while increasing the effectiveness
of our members to better serve their communities and society.
Again and always, I want to thank my wife Gay and son Brad for allowing
me to get out here
and do this work.