ALERRT project partners conducted an online survey involving autistic people, their families and caregivers in order to gain insight into the accessibility of services of first responders for autistic people.
The survey was conducted using Survey Monkey and a total of 420 people participated. The majority of the respondents were between 30-45 years old and 84% of participants were caregivers (support persons) and 12% were autistic people.
Participants were asked to rate first responder’s knowledge of autism. About 51% mentioned that first responders have a very poor or poor knowledge, and 25% didn’t know if they had knowledge or not.
The majority of participants also rated their experience using the services of first responders as average or poor. The reasons for these ratings include, 1. that the services of first responders were not autism-friendly, 2. that they did not properly cater to the autistic person’s needs.
These findings confirm the need for further training for first responders on how to effectively work with autistic people in emergency situations.
After analysing the information gathered from the focus groups and the accessibility survey, project partners concluded that the training for first responders should focus on the following subjects:
- What is Autism? (the characteristics of autism; the prevalence; demographics; possible causes)
- Preparing First responders of encountering a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (why a first responder might encounter an individual with ASD)
- Most encountered Communication Characteristics of persons with ASD (the communication characteristics of ASD; examples of communication behaviors)
- Common Behavior Characteristics of persons with ASD (common behaviors and characteristics, examples of how these behaviors and characteristics might influence interactions between the professionals and people with ASD)
- Common Social Interaction Characteristics of persons with ASD (common social interactions; examples of unusual social behavior that might influence interactions between the professionals and people with ASD)
- Actions for Encounters with persons who may have ASD (recommended actions, actions to avoid)