Paramedic Implements Training Program on how to Rescue Individuals with ASD

Many children with Autism suffer from sensitivities to loud noises, harsh lights, and sudden actions that take place around them. In emergency situations, such as a fire, children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) may have difficulty understanding the situation and therefore panic or have an anxiety attack.

Blair Blanch, paramedic firefighter at Purdue University, and father of a 7-year-old Autistic child, has implemented the initiative of teaching a course to firefighters on how to better prepare themselves for when they come in contact with a person with Autism. Blanch states, “We all know Autistic individuals live in the community. We know that in many cases they go to school. They have jobs. They do well managing their difficulties. However, when they find themselves in emergency situations, in many cases, you can throw all that out the window.”

Blanch’s program, Fire Rescue Autism, trains career firefighters, career EMS, and police officers, on how to properly rescue and help Autistic individuals in emergency situations. With 1 in 68 children in the U.S. being diagnosed with Autism, it is more important now than ever to train emergency personnel in helping those with ASD in these situations. Blanch’s program offers tips in rescuing those with ASD, as well as describes triggers which emergency responders should avoid. He cautioned that if the firefighter is in a situation where an Autistic child is having a meltdown, to not hover over them or try to touch them unless they can see exactly what is happening, as children with ASD can be very sensitive to touch.

He also described behaviors that may be typical of someone with Autism, such as repeating words or phrases back, ignoring commands, rocking back and forth, and covering their eyes and/or ears. Firefighters and emergency responders should be aware of these behaviors, and understand that these children are calming themselves down in their own way. He adds, “If you’re doing a rescue and have somebody bundled up in a blanket or a turnout coat with their arms inside, grabbing them from the back in a strong bear hug to remove them is probably going to calm that person down as much as anything.”

There are currently 12 firefighters, including Blanch, teaching this program across the United States. This topic is something extremely important for all emergency personnel to learn, and therefore Blanch hopes that more individuals will adopt this program, as it discusses vital information in saving the life of an Autistic individual.

The ICare4Autism International Autism Conference will be discussing other important topics in the field of Autism in NYC on June 30th to July 2nd. Many valued speakers will be giving fascinating presentations and conducting informative workshops. Early bird ticket specials are still available, so now is the best time to register! Please select your tickets here.

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