News Article Details

Vine School hosts autism registry for children, adults

Victoria Advocate - 11/7/2018

Nov. 07--Local nonprofits and educators are turning the bad experiences people on the autism spectrum have with first responders and law enforcement into good interactions.

"Whatever the age is, sometimes they automatically associate police officers with bad guys and robbers, so it's also breaking down that barrier -- they are your friend and they are here to help," said Paige Weaver, executive director of the Crossroads Autism Network. "If first responders and law enforcement can take a minute, break it down, think outside the box ... it's all about keeping things from escalating so far and so fast."

The Vine School partnered with the Crossroads Autism Network and the Gulf Bend Center to host the Safety First Registration and Emergency Tool Box event Sunday and Tuesday for people to register their loved ones with autism with the Victoria Police Department.

"With awareness comes acceptance," said Erin Hatley, executive director of The Vine School. "This was a project to bridge that gap with communication."

The school and the Crossroads Autism Network have a five-year partnership since collaborating on its annual walk for autism. This is the first time the organizations have partnered to host this type of event, Hatley said.

"All of us felt like this was a need in the community and heard from a lot of parents that we need to bridge that gap with our first responders," she said.

Children and adults on the autism spectrum are able to register by filling out a personal emergency profile that includes likes, dislikes, medical needs, emergency contact, signs of escalation and restriction. They can also draw a home map to let responders use in the event of an emergency. The map can include places where an autistic child or adult would like to hide during an emergency. The information collected will be given to the police department and be kept in files for the dispatch registry to have on hand in the event of any type of emergency. Autism varies from person to person, Hatley said.

"Wandering and elopement is huge with our kids and adults on the spectrum, especially if they feel like they are overstimulated or that fight-or-flight response," Hatley said. "I think the big thing especially with our older students and into adulthood when approached by a first responder, if they don't respond to their questions, their first response is they are being disrespectful, when they really may be nonverbal or don't understand the question, so we need to let the police officers know this is the situation."

People who register can get an emergency toolbox kit, which includes a flashlight, a hygiene pack, noise-canceling headphones, bubbles and fidget spinners, which parents can keep in their home in an emergency, Hatley said.

In the kit will also be a folder with resource information and a sticker that can be placed on a car or mailbox that reads, "In case of emergency, occupant with autism may: run away, not respond or resist help."

Robyn Garza, vice president of the Crossroads Autism Network, said a possible next step is to partner with the Victoria Association of Citizens with Disabilities to expand the event.

"Having some kind of identification tool that will not only help identify the individual but also help them communicate, know something about them, will help," Garza said.

Gabriella Canales reports on education for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at gcanales@vicad.com or 361-580-6578.

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(c)2018 Victoria Advocate (Victoria, Texas)

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