Spotlight on Services: Safe and Sound Training and Ethan Saylor’s Legacy

By Theresa Vargas, Published: February 11, Washington Post, Post Local section

Reposted from the Washington Post

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) impairs a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others. As a result, individuals on the spectrum are more likely to have a 911 encounter than the average citizen. These events can be high risk calls for the responder and a person with autism. However, if first responders are not properly educated and trained on how to appropriately address a person with autism in crisis, situations can sometimes become tragic. First responder trainings include what are the characteristics of ASD, specific implications with regards to wandering amongst individuals and the best practices in approaching a distressed individual who has autism. The Autism Society began the Safe and Sound™ initiative in 2005 to provide much-needed resources on topics such as general safety, emergency preparedness and prevention, and risk management. Safe and Sound™ works to develop information and strategies to benefit individuals on the spectrum, their families and the professionals who work with them. Another significant aspect of Safe and Sound™ is the Autism Society provides for many communities trainings and information for first responders — those who are first on the scene in an emergency situation.

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Ethan Saylor’s legacy: Frederick deputies learn how to interact with those with IQs under 70

Ethan Saylor’s name was not on the curriculum. But it was clear his death was the reason two dozen Frederick County deputies were sitting in a classroom Tuesday, learning how best to interact with people with intellectual disabilities.

A year after the 26 year old man with Down’s Syndrome died while three off-duty county deputies forced him from a movie theater — an event that remains the subject of a civil lawsuit — the sheriff’s office has adopted a training program that focuses specifically on individuals with IQs of less than 70. Until now, the training deputies received was limited to their interactions with people with autism and mental illness.“After the unfortunate incident with Ethan Saylor, we heard the public, and we heard that there was a demand for this type of training,” Frederick County Sheriff Charles A. Jenkins said Saylor’s death left not only a family and the community devastated but also the officers who were involved.“This has turned their lives upside down emotionally, professionally,” he said. “Really, it truly has.” The training, which is costing the department about $3,500, was created by two Mount St. Mary’s University administrators who approached Jenkins with the idea in August. The class lasts four hours, and participants are required to take a test at the end.

The training is separate from the efforts of a commission set up by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in September. That commission has the broader goal of ensuring that not only law enforcement officials but all first responders receive education on how to safely manage situations involving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Our overall mission and our goal is to develop a comprehensive set of recommendations that are going to put Maryland on the cutting edge of inclusion,” Maryland Secretary of Disabilities Catherine Raggio said. “So we’re looking at it far broader than local sheriff deputies.” Raggio said the commission has yet to find any place in the nation that offers statewide training — and Maryland hopes to be the first. Read more of this Washington Post story here.