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Training Program Educates First Responders On People With Autism

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Illinois firefighters and paramedics may soon know how to better help autistic people during emergencies.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports, a new, free training program, called “Autism Spectrum and Similar Disorders in Emergency Situations,” aims to teach first responders how to identify people with autism, and give them instructions during an emergency.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports

State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis worked with the Lisle autism advocacy group Giant Steps to develop the online program.

“This is important training to better prepare first responders,” Matkaitis said in a news release. “Autism spectrum and similar disorders may affect the way someone reacts during high stress situations and first responders need to recognize and understand an effective way to keep them safe.”

The program was created at the request of three Illinois state lawmakers – Sen. Edward Maloney (D-Chicago), Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), and Rep. Sid Mathias (R-Arlington Heights), who also worked on developing the curriculum for the program.

One in 88 children in the U.S. is believed to have an autistic spectrum disorder.

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