Throughout the country, children and adults with autism are living, going to school, working and enjoying recreational activities in their communities. The Autism Society began the Safe and Sound TM 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 to provide information and training to first responders — those who are first on the scene in an emergency situation.
Safe and Sound helps parents and professionals identify potential public safety or criminal/juvenile justice situations and provide possible solutions so individuals with autism and those who care for them can be prepared for, stay safe during and avoid these situations.
The Autism Society’s Safe and Sound initiative is a collaborative effort with several first response professionals including Bill Cannata, Jimmy Donohoe and Dennis Debbaudt. Dennis is a law enforcement trainer with more than 15 years of experience presenting autism-related training sessions. His book, Avoiding Unfortunate Situations, was the first resource to address the interactions between law enforcement professionals and people on the autism spectrum, and his training materials are in use by law enforcement agencies around the world.
Created by the Autism Society and safety expert Dennis Debbaudt as part of the Autism Society’s Safe and Sound Initiative, the Emergency Decal can be placed on your door or automobile window to alert first responders. A companion piece, the Personal Information Record, provides information to help primary caregivers be prepared in case of emergency and gives on-scene tips for emergency personnel. The Personal Information Record should be updated regularly and kept in a place where emergency responders can access it for relevant information. Click here to order the Emergency Decal.
As part of grant from the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime, the Autism Society provides a series of fact sheets specifically for social workers, attorneys and judges, paramedics and emergency room staff and other first response professionals. The Autism Society is committed to using our resources and affiliate network to employ a multi-pronged approach for first response professionals, individuals on the spectrum, parents/caregivers and community providers.
Our vision is to improve the quality of life of individuals with ASD by ensuring their awareness and preparedness related to risk and safety and creating community supports to keep them safe.
Read the Autism Society’s statement on wandering.
Ten Things You Can Do Related to Safety — Starting Now
1) Get to know your neighbors and those who make up your community (fire, police, grocers, etc.); be a resource so they understand ASD and your child in particular.
2) Fill out a Personal ID Record (such as the one offered by the Autism Society) and make various copies to keep in key locations. Flag your address in the 911 system.
3) Anticipate issues that could arise and contemplate solutions. When you need assistance, reach out to others in the autism community for ideas.
4) Ensure the individual with ASD has an effective method of communication.
5) Practice providing personal information — name, address, phone number — in an understandable manner in various situations.
6) Have concrete, detailed and frequent conversations with your child about the rules (e.g. talking to strangers, staying in the yard or with caregivers, etc.)
7) Talk with others about your concerns and rules. Establish a phone tree and action plan that can be engaged if the worst happens.
8) Listen, watch and learn. Try to understand why your child does things, anticipate potential issues, and develop good solutions.
9) Address issues such as bullying at school — ensure policies are in place and increase awareness of autism in the entire student population.
10) Stress water safety — it can mean the difference between life and death. Enroll your child in swimming lessons if he/she does not know how to swim.