This past June, over 200 individuals were trained in ND! Seven training sessions total were held in Fargo, Grand Forks and Bismarck, North Dakota, including officers from 16 separate law enforcement agencies, firefighters and EMT’s from at least 5 fire departments, and workers from several school districts, case management and child protective agencies, as well as a good number of parents and foster parents. Training academy officials and police chiefs and command staff were among the attendees.
Following the trainings, the directors of both police academies indicated it is their intention to incorporate the training into the regular curriculum of their new officer classes from this point forward! This is a huge step to ensuring the sustainability of the training. I was able to identify several potential trainers, almost all of whom are police officers or firefighters, who have family members with autism. Nancy and I have provided them with the training materials and will be supporting them as they conduct ongoing training there on there ground in North Dakota.
We would not have been able to have such a successful trip without the dedication and support of some amazing folks in North Dakota, Barbara Wilhem Field and Sherris and Tony Richards from the ND Autism Connection.
My takeaway from this experience is: (1) police particularly “don’t know what they don’t know” and often cannot appreciate the importance of the training until they are actually in the audience and hearing the information. I also find that when we are able to get families affected by autism in their communities to attend alongside the officers, it has a powerful impact on the command staff, and motivates them to want to incorporate safety programs around wandering and registration, etc; (2) The “template” of getting the training approved by the state POST authority, and then ensuring a session at the training academy is key to creating sustainability of the training on a larger scale, and (3) I firmly believe that identifying and cultivating a group of autism parents that are also first responders who are motivated to conduct the training is absolutely key to maintaining enthusiasm for the programs.
Nancy and I are very appreciative of the opportunity to bring this critical information to North Dakota, which had not had any meaningful autism safety training before. We feel it has made an impact, and we are committed to continuing to work with the folks we have met, to ensure the training continues. I met many wonderful and dedicated first responders who immediately understood the importance of the information once they heard it.
It was a great experience, and something I KNOW we can replicate in other areas of the US and even other countries that have not been exposed to this critical information. If your area is in need of Autism Safety training, let us know and we will see what we can do!
- Matt Brown, President & Trainer, ASET - Autism Safety Education & Training