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WATCH: First responders trained on how to interact with people with autism

Autism Society of Central Texas releases informative training video for first responders

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas — Following a police shooting in Miami earlier this month involving an autistic man and his caretaker, the Autism Society of Central Texas has renewed its efforts to educate first responders on how to interact with patients on the autism spectrum.

The organization has created a training video specifically tailored to the needs of EMTs, firefighters and law enforcement personnel who may need to de-escalate a violent situation with an autistic person.

The video, which uses real people with autism, illustrates specific patterns of behavior that first responders can learn to recognize on scene. Autistic patients might avoid eye contact and may not respond to commands as expected. They can also become nervous when forced out of a comfort zone.

“There definitely are some tactile issues,” Firefighter John Collins said. “There’s some things like body space. You don’t want to be too close and you don’t want to be too far with what they are necessarily really comfortable with.”

The goal is to avoid escalating the situation so it doesn’t become violent, say officials with the nonprofit offering the training.

“There isn’t a single standard that you can apply to folks that have Autism,” Williamson County EMT Dan Cohen said. “We just have to be a little more patient in a way to learn about what their needs are.”