So today was SUPER exciting!! It was our first "Dillon's World coffee chat" and it went great! I met with some great people that work with children with special needs and their families at Manitowoc County Human Services. Their work is so very important and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to say THANK YOU to them in person for all that they do.
Today's topic was SAFETY! It was an informal and casual gathering which was perfect for some great conversations and creative thinking. We all shared ideas on possible responses and actions that could be used to respond to a child with special needs in a crisis situation. A disconnect that was shared was the fact that when dispatch relays information to law enforcement and EMS responders that help is needed to a certain location about a child/adult's aggressive behavior a very important piece of information is missing. And that is whether or not the individual has special needs. The caller most of the time either because they don't recognize their is a special need or because of our human reaction to a crisis situation we can freeze and not relay all of the information needed. Personally, I know I most likely would not share that Dillon has autism much less know my address if I'm in need of emergency help. My focus would be on Dillon. However, this is a very important component and knowing this will have an effect on how law enforcement and/or EMS Responders will approach the individual, react to the situation and respond in a safe way ending in a possible good outcome. I would like to share with you three R's that we felt would be a great starting point to generate some great discussion and advocacy for parents, caregivers, and professionals working with families of special needs.
As parents we need to help law enforcement and EMS Responders recognize that our child has special needs when they arrive to the situation they've been called to. Some ideas shared were what if we had an Autism sticker on our front door, a window in our home and on our vehicles. Another idea was to have an Autism badge sewn on our child's backpack if he or she takes one along where ever they go. An ID tag or bracelet was another idea. Any visual that would help them be able to recognize that they have a special need would be soooo helpful! Also when in an emergency and you are making that call for help PLEASE relay that the individual has special needs.
As human beings, I feel we have the capacity to put ourselves in someone else's shoes. Ask yourself, "How would I feel in this situation? How can I relate to this?" Just taking a moment to relate will frame your mind to become more empathetic and compassionate individuals. As parents, how can we help law enforcement & EMS Responders better connect, communicate and relate to our children? Can we give them tools? I am currently working on purchasing some of Dillon's favorite toys (books, dvds, balls, garage door openers) and placing them in a backpack labeled "Dillon's Bag" and giving it to the law enforcement in our community. This idea was THEIR suggestion! How cool is that?! It's a concrete idea that I know will help them connect with my son.
So after we recognize that the individual has special needs and we have related to them and have found our own unique way to communicate we can then respond to the situation. And again empathy & compassion are key components. When working with my son with Autism it is best to turn the sirens off, limit the amount of people talking around him, and limit the noise if possible. When asking Dillon questions it's best to ask him a question that he needs to finish the last word of the sentence. In his mind he has to close the sentence. For example, "Dillon, Where are you hurt?" Dillon will think about all the places on his body that he feels pain and he most likely will not verbalize it. However, if you ask, "Dillon, I feel hurt on my ..." In Dillon's mind he will have to complete the sentence with one or two words. Sort of like filling in the blank. So that's one way to communicate with Dillon. And again this is just my son. It is different with every individual that's why it's so important to build relationship and to get to know one another so we can respond effectively.
WE are hoping to have many MANY more discussions on this in the future! If you would like for Dillon and myself to join you in your community for a coffee chat please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (920) 860-0639.
Jackie & Dillon.