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New Initiative Fosters Understanding of Autism for First Responders and Educators

(WJAR) — Going inside the world of someone with autism.

That's the aim of a new initiative from The Autism Project.

"A lot of times our families get criticized for why is your 5-year-old walking down main street," said Joanne Quinn, the mother of a high functioning son with autism and the executive director of The Autism Project.

But that's often the reality for parents of kids with autism. Some elope, in this context, that means they wander.

"Our kids are so resourceful. They're quiet, they can get out of a situation that's stressful and before you know it, they're in grave danger," said Quinn whose organization is raising awareness among our first responders and educators. "We want them to understand what it's like to be a parent of a kid who elopes."

They are distributing informational packets to first responders, educators and families that include information sheets parents can fill out to give to first responders in case their child goes missing.

And there are visuals too.

"We want them on every rescue in the state, every fire department so that they have them there so when somebody with autism is having trouble communicating, they can at least ask questions visually," said Quinn.

There are refrigerator magnets that alert first responders to any challenges or fears a child might have.

"It helps us all be aware of how to interact so that it doesn't go badly," said Quinn.

These educational informational packets are made possible by a grant from the Department of Justice. They are free for educators, first responders and families.

WJAR Channel 10 Report