Free autism awareness training offered to Long Island first responders

The seminar is led by retired firefighter Bill Cannata and retired police officer Jimmy Donohoe.

Thema Ponton

Apr 9, 2024, 2:44 AM

Updated 47 days ago

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Long Island first responders are learning new skills to help them in an emergency situation when encountering Long Islanders with autism.
"It's valuable information that could end up saving lives." said Veronica Garcia, director of development for the Nassau/Suffolk Autism Society of America.
The nonprofit organization hosted a free autism awareness training seminar Monday in Bethpage for first responders.
Garcia said one of the goals of the training seminar is, "Having our first responders understand what it is to identify somebody on the autism spectrum, the best way to communicate with them if communication is possible, how to lean on people like their parents or advocates or staff."
The seminar is led by retired firefighter Bill Cannata and retired police officer Jimmy Donohoe.
Cannata said, "There are ways that you can maybe discern that somebody is on the spectrum, just by the way they either answer you question or even if they don't, many are non-verbal, about 50% are non-verbal."
Donohoe has a son on the autism spectrum.
He tells News 12 that more than half of the people with autism will go missing at some point.
"Of those, 42% are going to end up in a tragedy, of those, 91% will drown and so we're trying to spread that word for these first responders...send units to the water first, so they hopefully can prevent a drowning from happening."
Trainers tell News 12 they aim to educate first responders about what autism is, how people are affected by it and how to best respond to emergency situations with an autistic person.


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