Out of respect for all of our friends who are on the Spectrum, I have refrained from “firedogisms” in this post.
A quarter century ago, the Autism Society launched a nationwide effort to promote autism awarenessand acceptance and draw attention to the tens of thousands facing diagnosis of the disorder each year. Toward that end, April was declared Autism Awareness Month in 2007. The goal of the annual event (as well as the society), is to encourage acceptance and appreciation for anyone who is diagnosed as autistic. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)is a “spectrum” disorder because of the wide variety of type and severity of symptoms patients experience. Conditions and syndromes related to or commonly occurring alongside Autism:
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Attention deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD)
- Autistic Disorder
- Autoimmune diseases
- Difficulties in motor coordination and attention
- See more at ResearchAutism.net
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports the following data relative to ASD prevalence:
- About 1 in 68 children has been identified with ASD.
- ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
- ASD is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).
- In Asia, Europe and North America, individuals with ASD average between 1% and 2% of the total population.
Signs That May Signal Autism
- Lack of or delay in spoken language
- Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms (e.g., hand-flapping, twirling objects)
- Little or no eye contact
- Lack of interest in peer relationships
- Lack of spontaneous or make-believe play
- Persistent fixation on parts of objects
How to Manage Autistic People in a Disaster
Autism awareness is crucial for anyone who might encounter someone along the disorder spectrum during an emergency drill or actual disaster. In an emergency, individuals who have autism may struggle to distinguish emergency responders from strangers. As a result, they may shut down or could even become combative.
Help Autistic Individuals in an Emergency
- Be prepared
Some people with autism do not have a normal range of sensations. If this is the case, they may not experience cold, heat or pain. They may show unusual pain responses, which could include laughter, humming, singing and/or removing of clothing.
Individuals with autism often have tactile sensory issues. So, the use of Band-Aids or other adhesive products could result it anxiety or aggression.
Explain what you plan to do in advance and as you do it. Explain where you are going and what they may see and who they may encounter. This could potentially lessen unnecessary anxiety and/or outbursts and aggression. If possible, handle this exchange in a quiet spot.
Expect the unexpected
Children with autism might ingest something hazardous. And people with ASD at any age may fail to acknowledge pain, despite the presence of significant pathology. So carefully inspect for injuries.
Give a reward and stay calm
Stickers and stuffed animals can be used to calm young children as well as older patients.
Take steps to make sure safety remains a daily priority
This is true whether you deal with people who have ASD or not.
For more about people with ASD in disasters, check out:
About the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Services System
We provide specific instructions designed to assist family members, neighbors and friends in assisting anyone on the autism spectrum before, during and after emergency situations. Our system also offers subscribers the option of Autism Emergency Contact Forms, to be completed by family members or caretakers. These quickly educate first responders about anyone who has autism in our subscriber’s high-rise buildings.
Our interactive, building-specific e-learning program helps commercial, residential, educational, institutional, government, retail and industrial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes and rewards building occupants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to the training needs of your facility. Click here for more information or to subscribe.