Decals alert first responders of occupant with autism
Observer-Reporter - 3/16/2017
April Sloane knows what it's like to have a first responder come to her Canonsburg home while she and her husband try to restrain their 7-year-old autistic son during a meltdown or when he escapes from the house.Sloane said that having a decal displayed on the window of their home or vehicle alerting first responders of an occupant with autism who might not respond to verbal commands will be a great help to their family.Canonsburg police, working with Kaleidoscope Therapy Center, is distributing decals that will alert first responders in advance of Autism Awareness month in April."If someone comes to our house who he doesn't know, he might run," Sloane said. "He is not trying to be disobedient."Sloane said she takes her son to visit Canonsburg police as well as Cecil Township police since her son attends Muse Elementary School."It helps him to get to know them so he doesn't panic," she said, adding that the police departments, particularly Canonsburg Chief Al Coghill, have been wonderful to work with.Coghill said that over the last few months, officers in the department have responded to calls involving children and adults with autism spectrum disorders."We've noticed at times, these individuals do respond to emergency situations in the same way that others do," the chief said. "As with all emergency responder interactions, there is always a chance of an incident arising from a misunderstanding."This can take place whether it is a medical, fire or police emergency, or even a situation that is not immediately recognizable to both parties."Courtney Cavanaugh, owner and clinical director of the therapy center, with offices in Washington and Waynesburg, has worked with Canonsburg police on what to expect when they encounter individuals with autism. It's part of the autism recognition program recently implemented by the department."Kids and adults who have autism can be affected by the loud noises and bright lights on emergency vehicles," Cavanaugh said. "They will respond differently. Without knowing, the first responder may believe that are just being unruly or defiant. These stickers are a great start in alerting first responders."Mayor David Rhome, who also is assistant fire chief, agrees."It alerts our officers, firefighters and emergency medical responders of special circumstances," Rhome said. "It is a tool to keep everyone safe."Rhome said the department continues to come up with innovative ways, like the autism recognition program, to benefit the public safety of the community.Rhome said the decals can be peeled off and transferred to another residence or vehicle should the family move or get a different vehicle.Parents and caregivers can pick up the decals at the police department on the basement level of the borough building, 68 E. Pike St., from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office is usually closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m.A cash bash, sponsored by the Autism Open to raise money for the "Forever Love Therapy Center," a therapeutic horse riding facility for individuals with special needs, will be held from 7 to 11 p.m.March 24 at the Library Volunteer Fire Company, Route 88.
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