It’s a Tuesday night around 7:00 pm and your pager has just gone off dispatching you to a motor vehicle accident. When you arrive on the scene, you find that the driver is unresponsive and there is a child curled up in a ball on the floor of the vehicle. He is not hurt but he won’t respond to your verbal commands nor will he let you physically remove him from the back seat. What would you do?
This could be the scenario you encounter when the child in the back seat is autistic. The diagnosis of Autism is used to name a neuro-developmental disorder, which impairs the growth and development of the central nervous system. This disability affects the person’s brain function in controlling emotion, learning and memory. It can also affect a person’s ability to interact socially and to communicate. Autism may also be called Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD) or Asperger’s Syndrome. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have a varying degree of severity and no two people could have all of the same behaviors.
The Autism Group of Corry (AGOC) was formed in 2011 to train local first responders on how to interact with an autistic child or adult during an emergency situation. Last month a decal was introduced by AGOC that families in the Corry area, who have an autistic family member, will display on the back window of their vehicles. Had the vehicle in our scenario displayed the decal an emergency responder would look in the glove compartment to find a medicine vial which contains an Autism Emergency Contact Form. This form gives important information about that autistic individual. It includes information about whether the individual is verbal or non-verbal or if they have any other disabilities. It also states what, if any, medication the autistic individual takes and which medical professionals can be contacted for help when treating the autistic individual.
The Autism Group of Corry is in communication with the Erie, Warren and Crawford County 911 Centers to find a process to “tag” home addresses of autistic individuals so the same emergency information would be available to emergency personnel who may be called to respond to an emergency at a residence. Until that process is complete, an emergency responder may see the same decal displayed on a door or window of the home. If a decal is present, the emergency responder will find a medicine vial with the Autism Emergency Contact Form in either the medicine cabinet or the refrigerator.
Currently, the decal pictured is only being used by families in the Corry Area School District, but there is a possibility that more communities in northwestern Pennsylvania will adopt the same decal and begin training their local first responders in the near future.
If you have any questions regarding the autism emergency decal or the training that AGOC provides, please contact the Autism Group of Corry at their email address firstname.lastname@example.org .
Autism is a disability that has a very wide range of behaviors and communication issues that are as unique as the autistic individual. Remember, if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.
Submitted by Christine Benchek, Spokesperson – AGOC