Thursday, April 13, 2023

Department of Public Safety Hosts Sessions of Autism Response Training for Law Enforcement and First Responders

Apr 13, 2023

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety hosted three Helping Enhance Autism Response Training sessions April 11-13 for law enforcement and first responder agencies. The purpose of the training is to help emergency responders learn best practices for interacting with individuals on the autism spectrum.

Public safety professionals from first responder agencies across the state attended the full-day events held at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. The training sessions were led by national expert and author Dennis Debbaudt, who has more than 25 years of experience conducting autism training for law enforcement and first responders.

“We held this training in the eastern part of the state in the fall of last year and knew that we wanted to expand it into the western region,” said NCDPS Secretary Eddie M. Buffaloe Jr. “Training is about improving safety for every community, including those with persons who are neurodiverse. To that end, community involvement and education are vitally important. The goal of our Helping Enhance Autism Response Training program is to further safe contacts among law enforcement, first responders and individuals with autism.”

“Autism Spectrum Disorder is the most rapidly growing developmental disability, affecting 1 in 36 children in the nation,” said Chief Deputy Secretary Casandra Skinner Hoekstra, who is leading the HEART initiative for DPS. “The likelihood of law enforcement and first responders encountering someone on the autism spectrum during an emergency situation is very high. It’s important that they be trained to recognize and safely respond to the social, communication and behavioral issues associated with the disability.”

The training included topics such as common autism behaviors and characteristics, recognition and response tips, public safety and suspicious person scenarios, search and rescue situations, behavioral de-escalation techniques and interview techniques for victim-witnesses and suspects with autism. 

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