By Marc Lucarini
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – On Monday afternoon, Camden County College hosted an autism awareness lecture. It took place on the Blackwood college campus in the Connector Building. This two-and-a-half hour seminar was instructed by Tia Dix.

The topic of this seminar was Educating First Responders about Autism. This free awareness lecture informed the audience about things that should be known to be a Good Samaritan when faced with certain situations regarding people with autism.

Dix talked about the growing population of autism in New Jersey. Participants listened intently while being taught how to identify people with diagnosis of autism and how to respond to people with autism. Public safety regarding police agents was also talked about, as well as how to recognize and deal with autism encounters.

Gov. Jon Corzine signed a bill requiring the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Human Services to develop an autism, intellectual and developmental disability curriculum for first responders, including emergency medical technicians, police officers and firefighters.

Dix told the audience that autism is sometimes hard to detect right away.

“This is why it is important that our first responders are supplied with accurate information on how to treat and work with the individuals with these special needs,” Dix said.

EMTs, firefighters and police are required to complete the training as a continuing education course, which supplies them with information they need to be an efficient responder.

Unlike normal patients, people with autism who need to be treated tend to have less of a chance to survive than normal. In the lecture, the audience was told that people with autism may not be able to understand what you say, appear deaf, act upset for no reason, have trouble speaking, or run away from you for no apparent reason. Some people with autism may not know the law, which means they will not abide by the law in some situations, not knowing right from wrong or not understanding the consequences of his or her actions.

Helpful hints and ways to interact with people who are autistic were provided by Dix. Among them, you are to speak slowly using simple language, repeat simple questions, give lots of positive praise, and do not attempt physically to block self-stimulating behavior. It is important to understand that every individual with autism tends to act differently from others with their unique thoughts and actions.

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