Autism Awareness for Fire and Medical Emergency Rescue: What You and Aging Parents Should Teach

Autism awareness for fire and medical emergency teams needs to be a concern for you and aging parents. For the general public, autism has no obvious physical signs. So the behaviors emergency workers might encounter would be surprising if they are not prepared.

This video clip what is an excerpt from a training video for fire and emergency rescuers building autism awareness. These are the types of resources that are available for you and aging parents to introduce to the community. This video series is produced by Dennis Debbaudt, a police officer and parent of a son with autism.

Click on the white "triangle" to start the video clip.



You never know when an emergency vehicle may need to be called for your aging parents. If you have an autistic sibling living in the home, the situation could be primed for a crisis. The characteristics of autism should be taught to local emergency workers.

Loud noises, lights, sirens, smells, and strange people in uniforms can provoke extreme reactions for autistic adults. Out of fear people with autism can display aggressive behaviors like biting and kicking. Autistic adults can very strong. They might also hide from rescuers in the chaos and fear. This type of autism awareness is critical for emergency personnel.

A summary of situations they might encounter would be helpful so they can correctly interpret behaviors and actions and create responses that are appropriate and helpful. You can share this article with your aging parents and together create a strategy to familiarize your community emergency workers and create more autism awareness.


Autism Awareness: Autism 101 for Fire and Rescue Personnel

  • 50% of individuals with autism are nonverbal throughout their lifespan another 20% may present as nonverbal when highly stressed.

  • 30 - 40% of individuals with autism will develop epilepsy or some other seizure disorder during adolescence.

  • Individuals with autism can't be identified by appearance. They look the same as anyone else. They're identified by their behavior. [Why autism awareness is critical...]

  • When restraint is necessary, be aware that many individuals with autism have a poorly developed upper trunk area. Positional asphyxiation could occur if steps are not taken to prevent it: frequent change of position, not keeping them face down. Individuals with autism may continue to resist restraint.

  • Some individuals with autism do not have a normal range of sensations and may not feel the cold, heat, or pain in a typical manner. In fact they may fail to acknowledge pain in spite of significant pathology being present. They may show an unusual pain response that could include laughter, humming, singing and removing of clothing.

  • Speak in short clear phrases "Get in." "Sit Down." "Wait here." An individual with autism may take longer to respond to directives, and that can be because they don't understand what's being demanded of them, or even just because they're scared, they may not be able to process the language and understand a directive when fearful.

  • Individuals with autism may engage in self stimulatory behavior such as hand flapping, finger flicking, eye blinking, string twirling, rocking, pacing, making repetitive noises or saying repetitive phrases that have no bearing on the topic of conversation. This behavior is calming to the individual, even if it doesn't appear calming.
  • They may repeat something you said or something they heard over and over and over again. This is called echolalia and can be calming to the individual. If these behaviors are NOT presenting as a danger to themselves or others it is in your best interest not to interfere with it.
  • Allow THE BEHAVIORS to continue as long as the individual is safe and is safe to be around. Trying to stop the behaviors will increase anxiety and may cause the individual to act out aggressively.

    Autism is also known by other names, ASD - Autism Spectrum Disorder, Aspergers Syndrome, PDD - Pervasive Developmental Delay, PDD NOS - Pervasive Developmental Delay Not Otherwise Specified and of course Autism.



  • Resources for Autism Emergency Training

    There are now an increasing numbers of resources that you can turn to for Autism Awareness in emergency situations. More and more fire departments are conducting training for their members. Here is one important resource with years of experience from Dennis Debbaudt an experienced fire fighter, and parent of a young man with autism. He now offers training internationally and has worked with some of the largest fire departments in the world.

    Visit Autism Risk Management for more information.