Bella Caracta at WOWT-TV in Omaha:
Papillion firefighters started their training Wednesday morning learning what not to do.
In 2017, a Buckeye, Arizona police officer confronted a teenage boy with autism. He ended up tackling him, and the boy sustained cuts, bruises, and an ankle injury that needed surgery. The officer claims he thought the boy was using drugs.
After showing the video Autism Action Partnership (AAP) based in Omaha encouraged metro responders to add one question to their routine: “Could it be autism?”
“You have the training to come on scene and you ask all sorts of questions to evaluate what kind of situation you’re dealing with. Where’s the danger? What do I need to do first? If we just add, ‘Could it be autism?’ to that list of questions, it’s really going to reframe the way you might approach a situation,” said Michaela Ahrens with AAP.
Throughout the month, AAP is working to help first responders improve their understanding of autism in hopes of helping those on the spectrum in an emergency safely and smoothly.
During the training, the group did interactive exercises to get a better understanding of autism. Aherns had them complete complex tasks while blaring a siren to simulate an emergency situation.
“It can be chaotic,” she said.
The exercises pushed the first responders to consider how emergency situations may further stress those with autism.