April is National Autism Awareness Month. With the number of diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders increasing—they’ve nearly tripled for children in the U.S. since 2004—it’s important for first responders to be familiar with the condition.
In January, I spoke with Bill Cannata, a former firefighter turned educator, about the importance of teaching first responders about autism, as well as educating people with autism about fire safety. Our conversation appears in “Clarifying Autism” in the current issue of NFPA Journal.
Cannata said the most common calls for service involving individuals with autism are search and rescue calls that are often the result of these individuals wandering away from the safety of their homes or schools. Rescuing individuals with autism can be difficult, he said, because they often don’t recognize when a situation is dangerous. Cannata is a trainer for the Autism Society of America’s Safe and Sound program and the program director of the Massachusetts-based Autism and Law Enforcement Coalition.