By Michelle Matthews
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – A seminar on educating first responders about autism will be held Monday, Dec. 6, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Camden County College Blackwood campus. The seminar will take place in the Forum, which is located in the Connector Building, and will be conducted by Tia Dix.

The seminar is part of a lecture series on autism coordinated by Jennifer Hoheisel, an associate professor of philosophy at CCC. This lecture will focus on helping first responders, which include EMTs, police, firefighters, doctors and nurses, understand behaviors that may be displayed by a person with autism.

Hoheisel states, “Individuals with autism sometimes have difficulty communicating (some never develop oral speech, although the majority do), and they sometimes have over or underdeveloped senses of hearing or touch. You can imagine that this could make situations where someone is injured difficult. Many individuals with autism are also most comfortable with a strict routine, and so changes like an emergency situation can be especially stressful – this stress might cause individuals to talk to themselves, to withdraw completely or even to hit themselves, all of which would seem odd or maybe even threatening to someone who didn’t understand autism.”

Because autism cases are increasing in New Jersey, it is imperative that first responders have the knowledge and ability to properly handle any emergency cases involving those with autism. Hoheisel says recent statistics show 1 in 94 people in the state of New Jersey fall somewhere on the autism spectrum.

“It is very important that our first responders understand the most common symptoms of this disorder, so that they can better help the individual with autism or diffuse some situations that could escalate without that understanding,” Hoheisel states.

While first responders are typically recognized as medical personnel and police or firefighters, anyone can be a first responder. The seminar is open to all and the admission is free although registration is required. If interested, go to http://www.camdencc.edu/civiccenter for registration information via the lectures and events link. Professional development credit is available for educators.

For further information on this lecture series, contact Jennifer Hoheisel at jhoheisel@camdencc.edu or (856) 227-7200, extension 4676, or Dr. John Pesda at jpesda@camdencc.edu or (856) 227-7200, extension 4333.

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