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Autism training equips first responders with educational tools

First responders in our area are now more prepared when it comes to interacting with people who have autism during emergencies.

SCRANTON, Pa. — Police officers and first responders gathered inside Lackawanna College Monday to learn about autism and how to recognize it.  

Gary Weitzen has a son with autism and travels the area, educating communities about it.

"How to communicate with individuals with autism and get them to follow simple commands. We go over concrete language, and the way you ask them to comply is different. Subtle little techniques that make a world of difference," Weitzen said.

Archbald Borough Police Chief Tim Trently chose to attend this training because he feels it's valuable information to share with his department.

"What to expect, showing that they may not be aggressive in a way to harm us, it's just their reaction that they have," he said.

This training will help police officers and first responders interact with those who have autism in the field, but it's also giving them the tools to educate the public.

"Anyone that has an autistic person should call their local police department, and notify their local fire and EMS and tell them this is a situation I want you to be aware of and this way we can plan ahead," Trently said.

Weitzen says this training is key for first responders because emergency situations can be overwhelming for people with autism.

"It can go so wrong so quickly. Not getting it right can be tragic to everybody involved. All you have to do is look up on the internet interactions that have gone wrong," he said.

Sensory kits are also helpful for first responders to have on hand with items that are safe for people with autism to use.

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