Emergency responders face a variety of situations on the job. Some are expected, some are not.
For example, a police officer may expect to encounter a speeding motorist, respond to an argument or track a robbery suspect. But sometimes they encounter situations that are delicate — and for which they may not have training to handle.
A case in point would be an encounter with a person who is autistic. Autism is a disorder characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
In some cases across the country, children and adults with autism have been tackled or had stun guns used on them by police officers when they have not understood how individuals react to certain situations. Loud noises or touching can be emotional triggers for people with autism.
Fortunately, two Columbus Police Department officers, Capt. Brian Wilder and officer Tony Kummer, recently demonstrated the training they had received for people with autism, and knew how to handle a situation of a son who on April 16 had wandered into a retention pond.
They knew to ask the mother whether loud voices and noises scared her son, and if they would be able to touch him. Their knowledge and subsequent actions based on that information helped resolve a potentially dangerous situation safely and return the boy to his mother.
The fact that local emergency responders had received additional training to handle such a delicate situation should be reassuring to residents — especially parents of autistic children and other residents who have family members with this disorder.
It shows an extra effort to understand and be prepared for all possible situations, and to resolve them in a manner that doesn’t cause harm.