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The first responder vs autism

01 March 2012
Volume 2 · Issue 1

In the past, the term ‘autistic’ had been used to describe both an individual and the disorder. ‘Individual with autism’ is now becoming the more commonly accepted description. Autism is considered by many as a trait of a person, rather than the whole identity of the person.

In 2010, 71 875 firefighters were injured in the line of duty, 13 355 of them being non-fire emergency situations. The number of non-fire emergencies increased by a substantial 247% due in large part to an increase in the number of medical aid incidents (Karter and Molis, 2011). Our goal is to prevent as many injuries as possible. We train to prevent line-of-duty injuries, but one possible source of danger that might be overlooked is an emergency situation involving an individual with autism. A first responder is seven times more likely to come in contact with an individual with autism than the average person (New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, 2012), so a good understanding of the condition and how that might impact on an emergency situation is imperative, for the safety of the individual as well as the first responder.

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