NEPA first responders undergo autism awareness training

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KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE 28/WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS) — First responders help people during emergency situations. To aid that process, some fire & EMS workers from our region learned about autism awareness to better serve residents in Northeastern PA.

Education is a core principle at Beyond Behavior Consulting in Kingston. Organizers say increased autism awareness can lead to an overall better understanding, as it can look different for each person.

“It’s on a subject that a lot of us don’t have a lot of knowledge on. So, I’ve actually learned quite a bit in the short time that we’ve been watching it,” said Dwight Nunemacher, assistant chief, Kingston Forty Fort Fire Department.

Assistant chief Nunemacher was one of the many first responders who attended the virtual autism awareness training course Friday afternoon. Organizer Jessica Hartnett of Beyond Behavior Consulting says it covered a wide range of topics, including how to navigate an emergency situation when a person with autism is involved.

“A child with autism thinks differently than a typical person. So, when you’re in contact with them, a simpler prompt or using less words or giving that appropriate time for them to register what you’re saying,” Hartnett said.

Responders from Northeastern PA got to learn from the group that specializes in the care of children and adults living with autism. Hartnett says the disorder affects each person in different ways. She says it’s important for EMS workers to identify potential signs.

“If you see certain behaviors like flapping arms, that’s not a child being aggressive. Or, if they’re kicking, it’s just them maybe processing, they’re not trying to attack you, and just giving that appropriate time for each kid.”

“The better we know the subject, the better care we can give and the better informed we are to assist in an emergency,” Nunemacher said.

Beyond Behavior Consulting hopes to do these autism awareness training sessions on a yearly basis.

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