By Anthony Rizzo
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – Educating First Responders will return for its fourth year on April 3, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. in the executive conference room of the Rohrer Center in Cherry Hill. Registration, along with all other information, can be found at the Registrar on campus.

The seminar, which will be hosted by Tia Dix, is designed to discuss the growing number of people with autism in New Jersey and help those in attendance identify behaviors and symptoms that indicate autism and explain how they are likely to react to police and first responder protocols. The seminar will feature a video from the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, a question and answer segment, and actual examples and demonstrations on how first responders should be prepared to react.

Dix will host the event for the fourth consecutive year and she has also done training for New York City and Massachusetts first responders, along with various training seminars throughout New Jersey. She became involved in this subject because there were too many cases in New Jersey where young adults were subdued by police officers because they weren’t listening and police officers weren’t able to pick up what was going on and when they tried to subdue them they took extreme measures, some as severe as death by asphyxiation.

Dix says, “The training is important because autism is a medical condition that does not show itself like Down syndrome but there are certain signs that can allow it to be identified. It’s important for police officers to be able to understand that lack of eye contact and failure to respond quickly is not a sign of disrespect, they are actually signs that the person they are dealing with is autistic.” Children with autism also interpret language differently, if an officer was to say quit pulling my leg the person with autism may not be able to understand the saying and take it literally.

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