First responders from all over the Wiregrass area attended a training seminar on interacting with individuals with autism on Aug. 5.

The event was held as a partnership between Beacon of Hope and Interaction Advisory Group to reach first responders in the area.

“Our mission is to set out and train first responders as a whole how to interact with people with autism and developmental disabilities to have safe interactions and make sure we keep officers and civilians who might have autism or developmental disabilities safe,” Chandler said.

He said that when a scene involves a person with autism, it comes with its own challengers that the first responders need to be prepared for.

 “It’s important to know that people with autism or developmental disability may behave differently and they communicate differently” Chandler said. “They may have certain challenges that the officer needs to know. It’s not really a show of defiance a lot of times, it’s just they have different challenges.”

He said the program aims to teach law enforcement officers the signs of autism and developmental disabilities so that first responders can identify it during their interactions with people.

“We just want them to know that if they observe certain indicators or characteristics that they may have to communicate differently or think differently about the process,” Chandler said.

Chandler is a former law enforcement officer and said the majority of his law enforcement experience comes from his time at the Hoover Police Department. He said that his background allows him to relate to the first responders.

“Being able to know know that I’ve walked the walk and can talk the talk, I know what they go through and I know it’s a very difficult job,” Chandler said. “But being able to relate to the officers and the first responders in the way that we do is something we take pride in. We’re not telling them how to police, we’re telling them if they encounter autism, it’s just going to be a little different of a call.”

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