We recently posted about a program called BOLO (Bring Our Loved Ones home) from Delhi Township, Ohio. Since its start, it has proven to be an extremely helpful tool for police officers in locating and returning lost loved ones to their families.
There has been a wave of similar programs across the country working to spread this type of awareness. One in particular is ALEC (Autism and Law Enforcement Coalition). It was created in Massachusetts in 2003 by a group of parents and first responders. With the rise of ASD diagnoses, there comes a need for training and education when interacting with individuals on the spectrum.
Fire Captain William Cannata is the National Program Coordinator for ALEC and is traveling to DeSoto County, Mississippi for their first training session in the area. Although the name implies it is designed for law enforcement officials, the teaching sessions are actually geared toward all first responders. Fire fighters, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics are all encouraged to participate. Often times in their line of work they need to make quick, on-the-spot decisions. The program is designed to help assess these certain situations and respond appropriately when someone with autism is involved.
Cannata chooses specific first responders who also have a personal relationship with someone with autism. He believes that they are the ideal presenters because they are able to meld the two worlds together, so they can implement the most effective life-saving strategies.
The goal of ALEC’s creators is to cater to the needs of their community while still upholding their duties as first responders. For example, the training outlines ways to calm an autistic person during a high stress scenario. Another priority is being able to communicate effectively and get everyone out of harm’s way.
The local DeSoto coordinator, Prosecutor Craig Treadway knows this all too well. He has a son with autism and recognizes the need for this type of training in his area. It is something they have been awaiting for a long time and excited to be a part of. They believe that it will make it safer for everyone in the community.
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by Raiza Belarmino