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The Autistic Spectrum

On this page you'll find information on how to keep your child with Autism safe. I will post links to safe toys as they become available, and  at the bottom of the page are links that may be of help.  I will be adding to this as I obtain pertinent information. If you're looking for something specific, please feel free to email me at  and I'll do what I can to assist you.

Click on the Autism Safety Sticker to order for your home and car .

Are You Prepared for an Autism Emergency?
by Dennis Debbaudt
To ensure safety and lower risk for a child or adult with autism, parents and care providers will need to become proactive and prepare an informational handout.
A leading cause for for concern are children and adults who run away or wander from parents and care providers.  Tragically, children and adults with autism are often attracted to water sources such as pools, ponds, and lakes. Drowning is a leading cause of death for a child or adult who has autism.
Wandering can occur anywhere at anytime. The first time is often the worst time.
Another concern is preparation in the event that you become incapacitated or injured while caring for a person with autism at home or in the community.
An informational handout should be developed, copied and carried with you at all times--at home, in your car, purse or wallet. Also circulate this handout to family members, trusted neighbors, friends and co-workers. The handout will also come in handy if you are in an area other than your neighborhood and are approached by the police.
If wandering is a concern, contact law enforcement, fire and ambulance agencies.  Ask your local  911 call center to "red flag" this information in their 911 computer data base. Dispatchers can alert patrol officers about your concerns before they arrive. When we provide law enforcement with key information before an incident occurs, we can expect better responses.
Alert your neighbors
The behaviors and characteristics of autism have the potential to attract attention from the public. Law enforcement professionals suggest that you reach out and get to know your neighbors.
    * Decide what information to present to neighbors
    * Plan a brief visit to your neighbors
    * Introduce your child or adult or a photograph
    * Give your neighbor a simple handout with your name, address, and phone number
    * Ask them to call you immediately if they see your son or daughter outside the home
This approach may be a good way to avoid problems down the road and will let your neighbors:
    * Know the reason for unusual behaviors
    * Know that you are approachable
    * Have the opportunity to call you before they call 911
Knowing your neighbors can lead to better social interactions for your loved ones with autism.
If wandering is an issue for your family, consider contacting a professional locksmith, security company or home improvement professional.

Autism Emergency Contact Handout Model
    * Name of child or adult
    * Current photograph and physical description including height, weight, eye and hair color, any scars or other identifying marks
    * Names, home, cell and pager phone numbers and addresses of parents, other caregivers and emergency contact persons
    * Sensory, medical, or dietary issues and requirements, if any
    * Inclination for elopement and any atypical behaviors or characteristics that may attract attention
    * Favorite attractions and locations where person may be found
    * Likes, dislikes--approach and de-escalation techniques
    * Method of communication, if non-verbal ­ sign language, picture boards, written word
    * ID wear ­ jewelry, tags on clothes, printed handout card
    * Map and address guide to nearby properties with water sources and dangerous locations highlighted
    * Blueprint or drawing of home, with bedrooms of individual highlighted
For further information:
Dennis Debbaudt, 2338 SE Holland Street, Port St. Lucie FL 34952
Phone 772/398-9756, Email
Information on Dennis' book:
Autism & Law Enforcement Roll Call Briefing Video
The Autism & Law Enforcement Roll Call Briefing Video offers tips and options for communications and responses designed to successfully resolve a call involving a person with autism.
For Further Information: Contact Dennis Debbaudt at
772-398-9756 (son with autism may answer phone)

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section


I. Introduction

Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and other law enforcement personnel have always interacted with persons with disabilities and, for many officers and deputies, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may mean few changes in the way they respond to the public. To respond to questions that may arise, this document offers common sense suggestions to assist law enforcement agencies in complying with the ADA. The examples presented are drawn from real-life situations as described by police officers or encountered by the Department of Justice in its enforcement of the ADA.

1. Q: What is the ADA?

A: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a Federal civil rights law. It gives Federal civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in State and local government services, public accommodations, employment, transportation, and telecommunications.

2. Q: How does the ADA affect my law enforcement duties?

A: Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in State and local governments services, programs, and employment. Law enforcement agencies are covered because they are programs of State or local governments, regardless of whether they receive Federal grants or other Federal funds. The ADA affects virtually everything that officers and deputies do, for example:


-- receiving citizen complaints;
-- interrogating witnesses;
-- arresting, booking, and holding suspects;
-- operating telephone (911) emergency centers;
-- providing emergency medical services;
-- enforcing laws;
-- and other duties.

3. Q: Who does the ADA protect?

A: The ADA covers a wide range of individuals with disabilities. An individual is considered to have a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Major life activities include such things as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. To be substantially limited means that such activities are restricted in the manner, condition, or duration in which they are performed in comparison with most people.


-- The ADA also protects people who are discriminated against because of their association with a person with a disability.

Example: Police receive a call from a woman who complains that someone has broken into her residence. The police department keeps a list of dwellings where people with AIDS are known to reside. The woman's residence is on the list because her son has AIDS. Police fail to respond to her call, because they fear catching the HIV virus. The officers have discriminated against the woman on the basis of her association with an individual who has AIDS.

4. Q: What about someone who uses illegal drugs?

A: Nothing in the ADA prevents officers and deputies from enforcing criminal laws relating to an individuals current use or possession of illegal drugs.

II. Interacting with People with Disabilities

5. Q: What are some common problems that people with disabilities have with law enforcement?

A: Unexpected actions taken by some individuals with disabilities may be misconstrued by officers or deputies as suspicious or illegal activity or uncooperative behavior.


Example: An officer approaches a vehicle and asks the driver to step out of the car. The driver, who has a mobility disability, reaches behind the seat to retrieve her assistive device for walking. This appears suspicious to the officer.

-- Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who have speech disabilities or mental retardation, or who are blind or visually impaired may not recognize or be able to respond to police directions. These individuals may erroneously be perceived as uncooperative.

An officer yells "freeze" to an individual who is running from an area in which a crime has been reported. The individual, who is deaf, cannot hear the officer and continues to run. The officer mistakenly believes that the individual is fleeing from the scene. Similarly, ordering a suspect who is visually impaired to get over "there" is likely to lead to confusion and misunderstanding, because the suspect may have no idea where the officer is pointing.

-- Some people with disabilities may have a staggering gait or slurred speech related to their disabilities or the medications they take. These characteristics, which can be associated with neurological disabilities, mental/emotional disturbance, or hypoglycemia, may be misperceived as intoxication.

Example: An officer observes a vehicle with one working headlight and pulls the vehicle over. When the driver hands the registration to the officer, the officer notices that the driver's hand is trembling and her speech is slurred. The officer concludes that the individual is under the influence of alcohol, when in fact the symptoms are caused by a neurological disability.

Example: A call comes in from a local restaurant that a customer is causing a disturbance. When the responding officer arrives at the scene, she discovers a 25-year-old man swaying on his feet and grimacing. He has pulled the tablecloth from the table. The officer believes that the man has had too much to drink and is behaving aggressively, when in fact he is having a seizure.

What can be done to avoid these situations?

Training, sensitivity, and awareness will help to ensure equitable treatment of individuals with disabilities as well as effective law enforcement.


For example:

-- When approaching a car with visible signs that a person with a disability may be driving (such as a designated license plate or a hand control) , the police officer should be aware that the driver may reach for a mobility device.

-- Using hand signals, or calling to people in a crowd to signal for a person to stop, may be effective ways for an officer to get the attention of a deaf individual.

-- When speaking, enunciate clearly and slowly to ensure that the individual understands what is being said.

-- Finally, typical tests for intoxication, such as walking a straight line, will be ineffective for individuals whose disabilities cause unsteady gait. Other tests, like breathalyzers, will provide more accurate results and reduce the possibility of false arrest.

6. Q: What if someone is demonstrating threatening behavior because of his or her disability?

A: Police officers may, of course, respond appropriately to real threats to health or safety, even if an individual's actions are a result of her or his disability. But it is important that police officers are trained to distinguish behaviors that pose a real risk from behaviors that do not, and to recognize when an individual, such as someone who is having a seizure or exhibiting signs of psychotic crisis, needs medical attention. It is also important that behaviors resulting from a disability not be criminalized where no crime has been committed.


Avoid these scenarios:

-- A storeowner calls to report that an apparently homeless person has been in front of the store for an hour, and customers are complaining that he appears to be talking to himself. The individual, who has mental illness, is violating no loitering or panhandling laws. Officers arriving on the scene arrest him even though he is violating no laws.

-- Police receive a call in the middle of the night about a teenager with mental illness who is beyond the control of her parents. All attempts to get services for the teenager at that hour fail, so the responding officer arrests her until he can get her into treatment. She ends up with a record, even though she committed no offense.

7. Q: What procedures should law enforcement officers follow to arrest and transport a person who uses a wheelchair?

A: Standard transport practices may be dangerous for many people with mobility disabilities. Officers should use caution not to harm an individual or damage his or her wheelchair. The best approach is to ask the person what type of transportation he or she can use, and how to lift or assist him or her in transferring into and out of the vehicle.


Example: An individual with a disability is removed from his wheelchair and placed on a bench in a paddy wagon. He is precariously strapped to the bench with his own belt. When the vehicle begins to move, he falls off of the bench and is thrown to the floor of the vehicle where he remains until arriving at the station.
-- Some individuals who use assistive devices like crutches, braces, or even manual wheelchairs might be safely transported in patrol cars.
-- Safe transport of other individuals who use manual or power wheelchairs might require departments to make minor modifications to existing cars or vans, or to use lift-equipped vans or buses. Police departments may consider other community resources, e.g., accessible taxi services.

8. Q: What steps should officers follow to communicate effectively with an individual who is blind or visually impaired?

A: It is important for officers to identify themselves and to state clearly and completely any directions or instructions -- including any information that is posted visually. Officers must read out loud in full any documents that a person who is blind or visually impaired needs to sign. Before taking photos or fingerprints, it is a good idea to describe the procedures in advance so that the individual will know what to expect.

9. Q: Do police personnel need to take special precautions when providing emergency medical services to someone who has HIV or AIDS?

A: Persons with HIV or AIDS should be treated just like any other person requiring medical attention. In fact, emergency medical service providers are required routinely to treat all persons as if they are infectious for HIV, Hepatitis B, or other blood borne pathogens, by practicing universal precautions. Many people do not know that they are infected with a blood borne pathogen, and there are special privacy considerations that may cause those who know they are infected not to disclose their infectious status.


-- Universal precautions for emergency service providers include the wearing of gloves, a mask, and protective eyewear, and, where appropriate, the proper disinfection or disposal of contaminated medical equipment. Protective barriers like gloves should be used whenever service providers are exposed to blood.

Example: Police are called to a shopping mall to assist a teenager who has cut his hand and is bleeding profusely. As long as the attending officers wear protective gloves, they will not be at risk of acquiring HIV, Hepatitis B, or any other blood borne pathogen, while treating the teenager.
-- Refusing to provide medical assistance to a person because he or she has, or is suspected of having, HIV or AIDS is discrimination.
Example: Police are called to a shopping mall, where an individual is lying on the ground with chest pains. The responding officer asks the individual whether she is currently taking any medications. She responds that she is taking AZT, a medication commonly prescribed for individuals who are HIV-positive or have AIDS. The officer announces to his colleagues that the individual has AIDS and refuses to provide care. This refusal violates the ADA.

III. Effective Communication

10. Q: Do police departments have to arrange for a sign language interpreter every time an officer interacts with a person who is deaf?

A: No. Police officers are required by the ADA to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Whether a qualified sign language interpreter or other communication aid is required will depend on the nature of the communication and the needs of the requesting individual. For example, some people who are deaf do not use sign language for communication and may need to use a different communication aid or rely on lip-reading. In one-on-one communication with an individual who lip-reads, an officer should face the individual directly, and should ensure that the communication takes place in a well-lighted area.


-- Examples of other communication aids, called auxiliary aids and services in the ADA, that assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing include the exchange of written notes, telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD's) (also called text telephones (TT's) or teletypewriters (TTY's)), telephone handset amplifiers, assistive listening systems, and videotext displays.

-- The ADA requires that the expressed choice of the individual with the disability, who is in the best position to know her or his needs, should be given primary consideration in determining which communication aid to provide. The ultimate decision is made by the police department. The department should honor the individual’s choice unless it can demonstrate that another effective method of communication exists.

-- Police officers should generally not rely on family members, who are frequently emotionally involved, to provide sign language interpreting.

Example: A deaf mother calls police to report a crime in which her hearing child was abused by the child's father. Because it is not in the best interests of the mother or the child for the child to hear all of the details of a very sensitive, emotional situation, the mother specifically requests that the police officers procure a qualified sign language interpreter to facilitate taking the report. Officers ignore her request and do not secure the services of an interpreter. They instead communicate with the hearing child, who then signs to the mother. The police department in this example has violated the ADA because it ignored the mother’s request an inappropriately relied on a family member to interpret.

-- In some limited circumstances a family member may be relied upon to interpret.

Example: A family member may interpret in an emergency, when the safety or welfare of the public or the person with the disability is of paramount importance. For example, emergency personnel responding to a car accident may need to rely on a family member to interpret in order to evaluate the physical condition of an individual who is deaf. Likewise, it may be appropriate to rely on a family member to interpret when a deaf individual has been robbed and an officer in hot pursuit needs information about the suspect.

Example: A family member may interpret for the sake of convenience in circumstances where an interpreter is not required by the ADA, such as in situations where exchanging written notes would be effective. For example, it would be appropriate to rely on a passenger who is a family member to interpret when an individual who is deaf is asking an officer for traffic directions, or is stopped for a traffic violation.

11. Q: If the person uses sign language, what kinds of communication will require an interpreter?

A: The length, importance, or complexity of the communication will help determine whether an interpreter is necessary for effective communication.


-- In a simple encounter, such as checking a driver's license or giving street directions, a notepad and pencil normally will be sufficient.

-- During interrogations and arrests, a sign language interpreter will often be necessary to effectively communicate with an individual who uses sign language.

-- If the legality of a conversation will be questioned in court, such as where Miranda warnings are issued, a sign language interpreter may be necessary. Police officers should be careful about miscommunication in the absence of a qualified interpreter -- a nod of the head may be an attempt to appear cooperative in the midst of misunderstanding, rather than consenter a confession of wrongdoing.

-- In general, if an individual who does not have a hearing disability would be subject to police action without interrogation, then an interpreter will not be required, unless one is necessary to explain the action being taken.

Example: An officer clocks a car on the highway driving 15 miles above the speed limit. The driver, who is deaf, is pulled over and issued a noncriminal citation. The individual is able to understand the reasons for the citation, because the officer exchanges written notes with the individual and points to information on the citation. In this case, a sign language interpreter is not needed.

Example: An officer responds to an aggravated battery call and upon arriving at the scene observes a bleeding victim and an individual holding a weapon. Eyewitnesses observed the individual strike the victim. The individual with the weapon is deaf, but the officer has probable cause to make a felony arrest without an interrogation. In this case, an interpreter is not necessary to carry out the arrest.

12. Q: Do I have to take a sign language interpreter to a call about a violent crime in progress or a similar urgent situation involving a person who is deaf?

A: No. An officer's immediate priority is to stabilize the situation. If the person being arrested is deaf, the officer can make an arrest and call for an interpreter to be available later at the booking station.

13. Q: When a sign language interpreter is needed, where do I find one?

A: Your department should have one or more interpreters available on call. This is generally accomplished through a contract with a sign language interpreter service. Communicating through sign language will not be effective unless the interpreter is familiar with the vocabulary and terminology of law enforcement, so your department should ensure that the interpreters it uses are familiar with law enforcement terms.

14. Q: Is there any legal limit to how much my department must spend on communication aids like interpreters?

A: Yes. Your department is not required to take any step that would impose undue financial and administrative burdens. The undue burden standard is a high one. For example, whether an action would be an undue financial burden is determined by considering all of the resources available to the department. If providing a particular auxiliary aid or service would impose an undue burden, the department must seek alternatives that ensure effective communication to the maximum extent feasible.

15. Q: When would an officer use an assistive listening device as a communication aid?

A: Assistive listening systems and devices receive and amplify sound and are used for communicating in a group setting with individuals who are hard of hearing.

-- At headquarters or a precinct building, if two or more officers are interrogating a witness who is hard of hearing, or in meetings that include an individual who is hard of hearing, an assistive listening device may be needed.

16. Q: What is a TDD and does every police station have to have one?

A: A telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) is a device used by individuals with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate on the telephone. A TDD is a keyboard with a display for receiving typed text that can be attached to a telephone. The TDD user types a message that is received by another TDD at the other end of the line.

-- Arrestees who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who have speech disabilities, may require a TDD for making outgoing calls. TDD's must be available to inmates with disabilities under the same terms and conditions as telephone privileges are offered to all inmates, and information indicating the availability of the TDD should be provided.

-- TDDs typically cost $200-300 each and can be used with a standard telephone. It is unlikely that the cost of purchasing a TDD will be prohibitive. Still, a small department with limited resources could arrange to share a TDD with a local courthouse or other entity, so long as the TDD is immediately available as needed.

17. Q. What about 911 calls? How are those made accessible to people with speech or hearing disabilities?

A: Individuals with hearing and speech disabilities must have direct access to 911 or similar emergency telephone services, meaning that emergency response centers must be equipped to receive calls from TDD and computer modem users without relying on third parties or state relay services. It is important that operators are trained to use the TDD when the caller is silent, and not only when the operator recognizes the tones of a TDD at the other end of the line. For additional information, please refer to the Department of Justices publication, Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Telephone Emergency Services. For information about how to obtain this and other publications, see the resources section at the end of this document.

18. Q: Procedures at my office require citizens to fill out forms when reporting crimes. What if the person has a vision disability, a learning disability, mental retardation or some other disability that may prevent the person from filling out a form?

A: The simplest solution is to have an officer or clerk assist the person in reading and filling out the form. Police officers have probably been doing this for years. The form itself could also be provided in an alternative format. Providing a copy of the form in large print (which is usually as simple as using a copy machine or computer to increase type size) will make the form accessible to many individuals with moderate vision disabilities.

IV. Architectural Access

19. Q: Does the ADA require all police stations to be accessible to people with disabilities?

A: No. Individuals with disabilities must have equal access to law enforcement services, but the ADA is flexible in how to achieve that goal. The ADA requires programs to be accessible to individuals with disabilities, not necessarily each and every facility. Often, structural alterations to an existing police station or sheriff’s office will be necessary to create effective access. In some situations, however, it may be as effective to use alternative methods, such as relocating a service to an accessible building, or providing an officer who goes directly to the individual with the disability. Whatever approach to achieving program access is taken, training of officers and deputies, well-developed policies, and clear public notice of the approach will be critical to ensuring successful ADA compliance.


Example: A police station in a small town is inaccessible to individuals with mobility disabilities. The department decides that it cannot alter all areas of the station because of insufficient funds. It decides to alter the lobby and restrooms so that the areas the public uses -- for filling out crime reports, obtaining copies of investigative reports for insurance purposes, or seeking referrals to shelter care -- are accessible. Arrangements are made to conduct victim and witness interviews with individuals with disabilities in a private conference room in the local library or other government building, and to use a neighboring department's accessible lock-up for detaining suspects with disabilities. These measures are consistent with the ADA's program accessibility requirements.

Example: An individual who uses a wheelchair calls to report a crime, and is told that the police station is inaccessible, but that the police department has a policy whereby a police officer will meet individuals with disabilities in the parking lot. The individual arrives at the parking lot, waits there for three hours, becomes frustrated, and leaves. By neglecting to adequately train officers about its policy, the police department has failed in its obligation to provide equal access to police services, and has lost valuable information necessary for effective law enforcement.

20. Q: What about holding cells and jails that are not accessible?

A: An arrestee with a mobility disability must have access to the toilet facilities and other amenities provided at the lock-up or jail. A law enforcement agency must make structural changes, if necessary, or arrange to use a nearby accessible facility.


-- Structural changes can be undertaken in a manner that ensures officer safety and general security. For example, grab bars in accessible restrooms can be secured so that they are not removable.

-- If meeting and/or interrogation rooms are provided, those areas should also be accessible for use by arrestees, family members, or legal counsel who have mobility disabilities.

21. Q: Is there a limit to the amount of money my agency must spend to alter an existing police facility?

A: Yes. It is the same legal standard of undue burden discussed earlier with regard to the provision of communication aids. Your agency is not required to undertake alterations that would impose undue financial and administrative burdens. If an alteration would impose an undue burden, the agency must choose an alternative that ensures access to its programs and services.

22. Q. We are building a new prison. Do we need to make it accessible?

A: Yes. All new buildings must be made fully accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities. The ADA provides architectural standards that specify what must be done to create access.

-- Either the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) or the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (without the elevator exemption) (ADA Standards) may be used. UFAS has specific scoping requirements for prisons that require, among other things, that 5% of all cells be made accessible to individuals with mobility disabilities.

-- Unlike modifications of existing facilities, there is no undue burden limitation for new construction.

-- In addition, if an agency alters an existing facility for any reason -- including reasons unrelated to accessibility -- the altered areas must be made accessible to individuals with disabilities.

V. Modifications of Policies, Practices, and Procedures

23. Q: What types of modifications in law enforcement policies, practices, and procedures does the ADA require?

A: The ADA requires law enforcement agencies to make reasonable modifications in their policies, practices, and procedures that are necessary to ensure accessibility for individuals with disabilities, unless making such modifications would fundamentally alter the program or service involved. There are many ways in which a police or sheriff’s department might need to modify its normal practices to accommodate a person with a disability.


Example: A department modifies a rule that prisoners or detainees are not permitted to have food in their cells except at scheduled intervals, in order to accommodate an individual with diabetes who uses medication and needs access to carbohydrates or sugar to keep blood sugar at an appropriate level.

Example: A department modifies its enforcement of a law requiring a license to use motorized vehicles on the streets, in order to accommodate individuals who use scooters or motorized wheelchairs. Such individuals are pedestrians, but may need to use streets where curb cuts are unavailable.

Example: A department modifies its regular practice of handcuffing arrestees behind their backs, and instead handcuffs deaf individuals in front in order for the person to sign or write notes.

Example: A department modifies its practice of confiscating medications for the period of confinement, in order to permit inmates who have disabilities that require self-medication, such as cardiac conditions or epilepsy, to self-administer medications that do not have abuse potential.

Example: A department modifies the procedures for giving Miranda warnings when arresting an individual who has mental retardation. Law enforcement personnel use simple words and ask the individual to repeat each phrase of the warnings in her or his own words. The personnel also check for understanding, by asking the individual such questions as what a lawyer is and how a lawyer might help the individual, or asking the individual for an example of what a right is. Using simple language or pictures and symbols, speaking slowly and clearly, and asking concrete questions, are all ways to communicate with individuals who have mental retardation.

-- Informal practices may also need to be modified. Sometimes, because of the demand for police services, third party calls are treated less seriously. Police officers should keep in mind that calling through a third party may be the only option for individuals with certain types of disabilities.

VI. Resources

24. Q: It sounds like awareness and training are critical for effective interaction with individuals with disabilities. How can I find out more about the needs of my local disability community?

A: State and local government entities were required, by January 26, 1993, to conduct a self-evaluation reviewing their current services, policies, and practices for compliance with the ADA. Entities employing 50 or more persons were also to develop a transition plan identifying structural changes that needed to be made. As part of that process, the ADA encouraged entities to involve individuals with disabilities from their local communities. Continuing this process will promote access solutions that are reasonable and effective. Even though the deadlines for the self-evaluation, transition plan, and completion of structural changes have passed, compliance with the ADA is an ongoing obligation.

25. Q: Where can I turn for answers to other questions about the ADA?

A: Several resources are available providing information and assistance to law enforcement personnel.


-- The Department of Justice's toll-free ADA Information Line answers questions and offers free publications about the ADA. The telephone numbers are: 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD). The following publications may be of particular interest:

Commonly Asked Questions about Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Telephone Emergency Services

-- Independent Living Centers that serve people with disabilities are a good source of practical ideas and common-sense help. The Department of Justice can provide names and telephone numbers for the Centers in your State.

-- The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in Washington, DC has developed a number of ADA publications that may be ordered by calling 202-466-7820 (voice) or 202-466-2670 (TDD).

Take Another Look Series:

Seizure Recognition and Management - Brochure

Police Response to Seizures and Epilepsy - Curriculum Guide

Police Response to Seizures and Epilepsy - Video

Police Contact with People Who Have Hearing and Speech Disabilities - Trainers Guide

Recognizing and Responding to People Who Have Mental Retardation - Trainers Guide

Mental Illness: Police Response - Brochure

Mental Illness: Police Response - Video

Mental Illness: Police Response - Trainer's Guide (available July 1996)

-- The Arc of the United States offers publications about the ADA as it applies to people with mental retardation. The telephone numbers are: 817-261-6003 (voice) or 817-277-0553 (TDD). The following publications may be of interest:


A Police Officer’s Guide When In Contact With People Who Have

Mental Retardation

Know Your Rights If You Get Arrested

When People with Mental Retardation Go to Court

-- Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. (TDI) has developed materials to assist managers and operators of 911 and other emergency response centers in being prepared to respond to calls from people who use TDDs (also called TTYs). Call 301-589-3786 (voice) or 301-589-3006 (TDD) for information about the Emergency Access Self-Evaluation (E.A.S.E) Package and to obtain the TDI Products Order Form.

Note: Reproduction of this document is encouraged. 9/12/96


Thanks to The Law Enforcement Awareness Network group at Yahoo.


Click on this link to subscribe to the support group on Yahoo:




A Child's Best Friend
Part 1: Considering a Service Animal?
Many people are interested in the possibility of having a service animal, usually a dog, for their child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is a relatively new concept, one developed in the past decade, and dogs are an amazing aid for these children. Jonathan had a service dog for three and a half years and the assistance that dog provided to him was truly beyond measure. A well-trained service dog that a child will bond with aids in socialization, prevents elopement and allows for normal interaction in society. Although the service dog working with autistics is still rare, it is something every parent should consider.
Several things must be taken into consideration when considering a service animal, particularly a service dog. This is not a venture entered into lightly, particularly if parents decide to train the dog themselves. Various factors are imperative to bring a dog into a working environment, and it truly is work. This dog will be at work when he/she is with your child. However, a dog is still a dog and considering canine needs is important. A dog needs to run, play, chase cats and bury bones regardless of what he does during his "work hours." Balancing the needs of the child and the dog is a major key to success and a few tips can help in the process.
    * The Family - It is vitally important that a child not be frightened of large dogs. If your child is very young and you are considering this option for the future, expose your child to larger dogs that you know are comfortable with children. It can be alarming for a child who has never been around a large dog to suddenly have an animal at eye level. A hesitant or scared child will not bond to the dog and no training in the world will allow them to perform as a good team.
    * Children have a different body language than adults. When a child approaches a dog, they usually have open arms, totally unrestrained behavior and tend to grab or pull on the dog. A child needs to be raised in an environment where they understand how to approach dogs. This is also a factor in the dog choice.
    * Time is an important element. Regardless of whether the dog is trained by a service dog facility or is trained at home, this is an extraordinary time commitment. Selecting a dog from one of the facilities that specialize in training dogs to work with children with ASD will require one to two weeks at the facility with the dog and the child. Expect a year to two years of training if the dog will be self-trained at home. Regardless of the source of the dog, continued training and reinforcement will be a necessity.
    * One parent needs to be involved in the dog/child team. If there are many caretakers involved this will be confusing for both the child and the dog. One adult who can supervise the team and provide the direction to the dog as to what is expected at a given moment will help the dog perform to the best of his/her ability.
    * Children best adapt to a service dog after they become a toddler and before they enter school for the first time. A rule of thumb is ages two or three to six. There are exceptions of course, but a child this age will be more receptive to the concept of dog/child teamwork.
    * The Dog Dogs are still dogs, regardless of their occupation. It is important that a fenced yard be available to the dog so he/she can go outside for play and relaxation. Think of this dog as an employee as well as a family member and service animal. Everyone needs off-hours and a service dog is no exception to this. Even the best-trained service dog is not above treeing a cat, burying a bone or rolling in the mud. These activities also provide exercise that is essential to the physical and mental health of the dog.
    * Like any other animal, dogs will become ill or will need preventative medical attention. Veterinary bills can be expensive. It is wise to have a bank account set up that funds are put into on a monthly basis should an expensive procedure be needed. Emergencies happen as well and having that back-up fund is akin to medical insurance for a dog.
    * Different breeds of dog require different grooming. A dog with a fuller coat will need frequent brushing to stay neat. Some children are interested in this whereas others are not able or willing to perform this task. A parent can brush a dog regularly if they are willing to give the time required. Nail clipping, dental care and any other grooming needs specific to a particular breed should be taken into account when a dog is being selected.
    * Different dogs have different dietary needs. Some dogs cannot tolerate certain foods and high-grade dog foods are the best for a dog that is working fulltime with a child. A working dog should not be allowed to become obese and a child should be taught to not feed the dog table scraps. This dog will eventually be working with a child in a restaurant and it is unacceptable to have a service dog begging for food.
Intrigued? So how do you bring a service dog into your child's life?
Part 2: Self-Training a Service Dog - It's Easy!
Can a parent find a dog and train it to be a well performing service animal for their child with ASD? Absolutely! Although organizations that provide service dogs make the whole process easier, some parents choose for a variety of reasons to train a dog at home. Sometimes a family cannot meet the qualifications of agencies; they may not have a fenced yard or may have another dog at home. The practicality of travel to the agency can sometimes be an issue as well. For those families, self-training, with a VERY STRONG commitment to creating a child/dog team is possible.
If the decision is made to self-train a service dog, it is important to learn as much as possible about service animal training and be well informed about the laws. Service animals are legal and cannot be prohibited from entering any public place that a person is allowed to enter. Research and understand the laws covering the use of service animals and do not be intimidated by people who are unaware or unwilling to follow the laws. A good Website for legal information regarding service animals is the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners.
The next step is to compile information and begin learning how to acquire the best dog for your child. It is important to understand what breed of dog is the best suited for your child. Many experts feel that a working dog's career will cover about a seven-year span so consider the size of the adult dog as well as the size of the child. A very large dog may be inappropriate for a child; however, one that is too small will not be able to stop wandering or elopement of a child. Breeds often chosen for people on the ASD spectrum are labs, golden retrievers and dogs of that size. Jonathan's dog was a collie, and although his coat created grooming responsibilities, he had natural herding instincts and was easily trained. A dog around 65 to 85 pounds is a size that easily worked with and is comfortable for most children.
Support as far as talking with other parents who have embarked on this journey is very helpful. The voice of experience is invaluable. Joining a group, either online or in person, is very helpful for learning how to train a dog for working purposes. Many simple mistakes can be avoided by talking to people who have done this themselves and the interaction will help keep a sense of humor that is imperative in the training process. There are days when someone who is working with training a dog and a child to work as a team that it will seem like the most foolish endeavor in the world. Hearing the stories of others, whether positive or negative, helps keep perspective on the situation. It is a great stress-buster to learn that you are not the only parent in the world who has been in public training the new team and had the child run off in one direction and the dog run in the other. There are groups at Yahoo Groups and other email lists. Research the best groups for your purposes and join in.
The sources for information on service dogs and other service animals are far too extensive to list within the context of this article. There are literally hundreds of sites and sources for information. Utilizing your favorite search engine and hunting out the sites that apply to your needs is the best way to progress. Simply do a search on "service dog" or "service animal" and work up a list of sites that meet the needs of your child.
A working team of a child with autism and a dog is a wonderful site. They seem like just any child with a pet but upon closer examination, it is clear that the dog is on duty. The socialization that a service animal brings to a child's life becomes part of therapy along with the freedom to simply be able to play outside or go shopping. The one goal every parent has for his or her child with ASD is to discover independence with safety. A service dog may just be the way to meet that goal.

Autism Proof Your Home
Adelle Jameson Tilton
Making A Secure Environment
"Autism Proofing" is only one of the measures that a parent must take to provide a safe, secure environment for the child with autism, but it becomes an important issue when a child is initially diagnosed or suspected to be autistic. Many people do not know how to make their homes safe from the potentials of inadvertent damage caused by the child's condition or how to make their home safer for the child. In view of this fact, let's take a look at some things which can be done to protect the child from his/her environment and the environment from the child.
One of the first things that can be done is to make sure that you choose very heavy home furnishings. Some Autistic children like to move furniture, tip it over in a fit of anger (or frustration) or use it to reach spaces in the home that would otherwise be inaccessible. If heavy furniture isn't an option, some parents have chosen to bolt some types of furniture to the walls, in order to prevent physical damage both to the child and to the furniture. Of course this is a good safety issue for any home with small children.
Another action which may be taken is to replace furnishings in the areas where the child has access with older furnishings perhaps kept in a redecorating project or from a garage sale. It's not so bad if "child play" wears a $50 sofa, but if it's a $500-1000 sofa, that's another matter. Choosing an older, sturdy design for furniture is a way of saving money and frustration for the parent. If you do have irreplaceable art objects or collectibles, lock them up until your children is older, so that he or she doesn't have access to them.
One of the best things you can do for your child, autistic or not, is to childproof electrical appliances. This means covering wall sockets, eliminate extension cords, or cover them with rubber channels. Electrocution, although not common, can happen and can be easily prevented.
Some things that most parents don't think of, but which are dangerous are houseplants, cigarettes and cat litter boxes. Many houseplants are poisonous if eaten, and children, especially children with ASD, often like the sensory experience of tasting things. Along with this danger is the one of a flower pot falling on someone. Young children often like to reach for things or climb, and if a hanging plant fell and struck them, the resulting injuries could be serious. Cigarettes can be quite dangerous if eaten. Nicotine is a potent poison if ingested, and leaving a cigarette in the ashtray, even if it is not lit, can result in injury. Cat litter boxes are a curiosity to many children. Since recent research indicates that Autism is very possibly linked to immune system deficiencies, and since litter boxes carry diseases, it would make sense to keep access to litter boxes to a minimum.

As you can see, there are a lot of precautions which must be taken with a child with ASD. Some are for the protection of property, but property can be replaced if damaged. Much more important is the protection of the child from illness or injury. Take a moment and check your house for potential danger spots. If you do, you won't "live to regret it".

Safety in the Home
Most parents and caregivers would view safety as a significant concern regarding their children in the home environment. Modifications such as placing gates in stairwells and doorways, covering electrical outlets, and using childproof locks on cabinets are some of the things many parents do to ensure safety.
For parents of "typical" children, such safety precautions are usually necessary for the first few years of childhood, after which the child develops, matures and no longer requires the use of modifications. However, for parents of children with autism or PDD {Pervasive Developmental Disorder), it is a different story. There are a myriad of additional issues to consider when addressing the safety of the individual with autism, the family members, and the home environment - often throughout the lifespan of the child.
Consider the many behaviors an individual with autism may engage in that could be unsafe: climbing, throwing, breaking, jumping, peeling, cutting, pulling down, throwing utensils, plates and cups, sweeping items off surfaces, dumping drawers and bins, and climbing out of or breaking windows. Or consider what can happen when natural curiosity and household appliances converge: putting items in appliances, flushing things, touching burners, turning hot faucets, inserting items into electrical sockets, chewing on wires, and crawling in a washer or dryer.
Finally, consider the potential dangers that can result from playing with matches, lighters or fire. Often, though, the children with autism who display such behavioral concerns do not understand the ramifications of their actions, which, at best, can be bothersome and, at worst, can be devastatingly tragic. Therefore, it becomes incumbent upon the caregivers in the home to provide both a safe environment and ways to teach their children to be safe.
This article addresses environmental and safety modifications that can be made in the home as well as steps that can be taken to prevent unsafe or inappropriate behaviors.
The following suggestions have been found to be helpful in preventing these types of behaviors and ensuring a safer environment. The suggestions range from using locks for security or limiting access to the individual to labeling every functional item and area in the home with photographs or symbols to assist in communication.
Sometimes parents balk (initially) at the idea of having to place locks on doors or cabinets, having to place alarms outside a child's bedroom, or having to label the house with PCS cards. They often say: "This is not a classroom." However, your home is indeed a natural learning environment, just like a classroom.
Establish priority areas for modification. Modify the most important areas first - such as the individual's bedroom, bathroom, leisure areas, kitchen, and back yard - since these are the primary areas of interaction for many children with autism. When starting, think about the room(s) in which the child spends the most time; for some children it would be a recreation/ family room, for other children it might be the bedroom or kitchen. In addition, consider the behaviors to be modified and their relationship to the environment. If the individual likes to put things in the toilet or run hot water in the bath, modifications should begin in the bathroom. If the child runs out of the house, modifications should begin with securing exterior doors with locks.
Arrange the furniture appropriately. Arrange the furniture in these areas in a way that "makes sense" for the activities the individual is expected to do. That is, if the individual will be doing "seated" activities, ensure that there are clear table surfaces and appropriate chairs. If the child frequently runs out of a room via a predictable path, arrange the furniture and close doors so that he or she is unable to escape. Limit the need for excessive movement and/or transition. Move furniture away from shelves or places where the child may climb. Keep furniture surfaces clear (if the individual is a "sweeper") and place items out of reach on shelves, in bins, or locked away. In addition, use gates or barriers to provide safety from falling down steps or limiting access to areas in the home.
Use locks where appropriate. It is important to place locks on exterior doors that provide entry or departure to and from the home. For individuals who run away or leave the home without supervision (also referred to as "elopement"), having locks on the doors can prevent them from leaving. Place locks on interior doors and cabinets where the individual should not have free access.
Some parents feel more secure when their child is locked into his or her bedroom at night to prevent "in the middle of the night" wandering. If you choose to put locks on the doors, use locks that you are able to open such as a lock with a keyhole/key, a hook-and-eye lock, or a slide-bolt.
Some parents place the lock key above the doorframe of the room to have quick and easy access. If a button-knob lock is used on the outside of the door, make sure that the child does not lock you into the room with him or her. It is also imperative that you have immediate access to the room where the door is locked in the event of fire, flood, etc.
Regarding locks on cabinets and drawers, use safety locks (often plastic devices) to secure items that may be unsafe for the individual. Many parents place these locks on bathroom and kitchen cabinets to prevent access to items in the cabinets.
Safeguard your windows. If the child likes to climb out of windows, place locks on them. Hardware stores carry special locks for just this purpose. If the child breaks glass or pounds windows, replace the glass panes with Plexiglas to prevent injury. Some parents have had to also place wooden boards over windows to prevent injury or elopement.
Make electrical outlets, appliances safe. Cover or remove electrical outlets and access to electrical appliances. Use plastic knob covers {also available at hardware stores) for doors, faucets, ovens, and stove burners. Lock the door to the room or rooms with the washer or dryer, appliances or power tools to limit entry and access. Ensure that all wiring for appliances and electronics is concealed in a way that the child cannot play with the wires. Individuals with autism have both a curious interest in how things work and a pervasive "unawareness" of dangerous situations - a potentially powerful combination when it comes to electrical materials.
Lock dangerous items away. Secure items that are dangerous if ingested, such as detergents, chemicals, cleaning supplies, pesticides, medications, and small items that a child may mouth or chew, It is easy for an individual with autism to confuse a bottle of yellow cleaning fluid with juice based upon appearance, to eat pills that look like candy, or to pour / spill liquids out of any bottle (some of which may be poisonous or toxic). Place such items out of reach or in cabinets with locks. Keep the Poison Control phone number in a permanent place that is clearly in view.
Secure items/materials that are dangerous or unsafe if used without supervision, such as sharp objects/ utensils (scissors, knives, razor blades). When unsupervised, many children like to cut things (clothing, curtains, wires, books, etc.) into pieces with scissors or knives. Ensure that scissors used by the individual have blunted ends (child-safety scissors), and be sure to provide supervision when involved in cutting activities.
In addition, secure items that need to be limited (i.e., candy, Nintendo, lighters, matches, TV, VCR, toilet tank covers) with a lock or ties.
Label everyday items. Place visual labels (symbols, photos, words, textures) on functional items, rooms, cabinets, drawers, bins, closets, and anything that has relevance for the child. By labeling the environment, the child may better understand what is expected and may be less likely to engage in undesirable behaviors. In addition, if the child understands the function of an item, piece of furniture, etc., he/she is more likely to use it for its intended purpose. For example, by placing visual labels on the bed for sleeping, the child may be less likely to view the bed as a trampoline. By placing labels on drawers and closets, it may reduce power struggles over being asked to put things away because the child will know where to put them.
Organize everyday items. Organize functional items in see-through plastic bins/boxes with visual labels (symbols, photos, words, textures) so the child can see and use the receptacles. Place the bins on shelves or in places that the child can easily see and access. Once again, the more organization, order and structure in the individual's environment, the more likely it will reduce the frustration level of the child and the less likely he or she will be to display in appropriate behaviors.
Institute appropriate seating. Ensuring that the individual is seated properly at a table or work station can help prevent behavioral concerns, such as throwing objects, knocking over furniture, self-stimulatory behaviors, and acts of aggression. For example, some children need to be seated in chairs with arms or a wrap-around style desk when doing work. Others may need to be seated in a place where they cannot escape from the table, such as against the wall or in a corner. In addition, a proper sitting posture (body at aright angle and feet flat on the floor) will help facilitate good learning and/or eating behaviors.
Use visual signs. Use dividers, tape boundaries, and signs as needed for setting expectations and limit setting. For example, the use of STOP signs on doors, drawers, furniture, and appliances has helped some children understand that these items/ areas are off limits. For children who climb on high surfaces or enter areas that they should not, STOP signs will let them know that what they are doing is dangerous. Using color tape to designate boundaries on carpets, floors, or walls can help to visually remind the child where their bodies need to remain.
Secure eating utensils and place settings. For utensil use during mealtimes, consider tying utensils to nylon string and attaching them to the chair or leg of the table so that if the child throws the utensils, they will remain attached to the string. There have been children who have "unintentionally" thrown forks across the table and injured other family members. If the child throws or sweeps plates, bowls, and cups, secure them with adhesive Velcro and attach them to a secure placement. Use plastic or rubber plates, bowls, and cups to prevent shattering of breakable items.
Safeguard bath items/toys. For bathing activities, have bath toys in a bag/bin away from the tub and unavailable until bathing/hair washing are competed. This will help the child focus on bathing and prevent power struggles while in the tub. You do not want a child flailing around while in a slippery bathtub since he or she or you could be injured. When the child is finished bathing/hair washing, you can then give him or her access to tub toys. Keep bath items (soap, washcloth, shampoo, sponges, etc.) together in a plastic or rubber bag/bin and accessible. Replace open-lip bottles with pump so the child will not empty or ingest the contents.
Remember fire safety. Regarding fire safety, it is important to have lighters and matches out of reach or locked up. Place safety covers over gas stoves and oven knobs so the child cannot turn them on. Always supervise the children closely when there is an active fire in the fireplace or when there is a barbeque with open flames. Many community fire departments can provide stickers (called tot finders) for bedroom windows of children, so that in the event of afire, the firefighters can locate a child's bedroom quickly. While it may be difficult to teach an individual with autism/PDD about the dangerous nature of fire, it may be possible to teach him or her about how to behave when it comes to fire safety.
Developing social stories (with photographs, pictures, words) about smoke detectors, fire drills, fire alarms, touching fire, etc., and reading the stories to the child on a regular basis, is the place to begin. [A social story is a short, personalized story that explains the subtle cues in social situations and breaks down a situation or task into easy-to-follow steps.] In addition to social stories, the use of visual (photos, pictures) rules can assist the child in understanding what they are not supposed to do and/ or what they are expected to do. For example, "no touching the oven burners" with a photograph of the over burners with a bright red "no" symbol or STOP sign over the photograph may visually depict the rule for the child.
Consider identification options. It is important that your child has proper identification in the event that he or she runs away or gets lost and is unable to communicate effectively. Once a child with autism becomes mobile, he/she may decide to walk out of the home without supervision. These children often like to be outside and in motion, so leaving the home to play outside is common. Once outside of the home, the child is then vulnerable and often unable to get home or communicate where they live.
If the child will tolerate wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace, get one (they can be found your local drug store). However, many children with autism do not like to wear jewelry, so the next best option is to place iron-on labels into each garment. Some children can be taught to carry and provide an identification card from a wallet or fanny pack. Children who are verbal may also be able to learn to show their identification cards.
Introduce Intervention Techniques to Teach Safety. In addition to the physical modifications to your home, you will want to introduce behavior modification techniques to teach your child how to be safe and act appropriately. There are a myriad of augmentative behavioral interventions that can be employed to do this. Examples of these interventions would be:

social stories
activity schedules
visual rules
signs / charts
peer and adult modeling
reinforcement for safe and appropriate behavior
consistent consequences for unsafe or inappropriate behavior
Once the individual can demonstrate safety, good judgment, competence and understanding of what is expected, many of the environmental modifications will be able to be faded out over time. Introducing the home modifications and intervention techniques mentioned above will not only help keep your child and your family out of harms way, they will also help ensure that your child is ready and able to learn and, ultimately, better able to reach his or her full potential.
Resources. Most of the items and products (safety knobs for appliances, locks, etc.) mentioned above, can be purchased from hardware stores, department stores, and children's stores in your community. You can also contact your fire department to see whether they have locator stickers or other materials to foster fire safety.
Note: The previous section was provided by Robin Allen, Ph.D., a Behavior Specialist who has been working with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 20 years.
Copyright 2004, Autism Society of America.

Fire Safety for Autistic Children
Do You Have a Plan?
Floyd Tilton

A few years ago, we had a major fire at the house next door to us. The people living there were gone and had left a space heater running. As a result, the fire was not detected until it was too late. By the time the fire department arrived, they had lost everything. Even though Jonathan was at school, the danger to our house made us think, what would we do if we had a fire while Jonathan was home?
Obviously, many of the normal fire safety rules would have to be modified because of his disability. Others would remain the same as for any child. For example, having a smoke alarm in operating condition is essential. Place a smoke alarm in each area of the house, so that it can be heard. Make sure that the alarm has batteries in it, so that it works and test it regularly. Plan escape routes, so that you, as the adult, know where to go if a fire breaks out. Learn how to put out simple fires before they burn out of control. Have a central meeting point, where the family will assemble, so that you can make sure that everyone is there.

Fire Safety and Autism
One modification that I would make is to make the child with autism the central figure in any fire situation. Other members of the family should know how to escape and reach the assembly point, but your child might not. Therefore, if a fire starts, someone should make certain that your child is located quickly and removed from the structure first. This means having someone who will be responsible for him above all other considerations. Immediately upon locating the child, get down on the floor and crawl toward the nearest exit if smoke is present.
Another modification is to make sure that once outside, the child is not left with anyone other than the person who took him/her out. The person assigned to your child should have that as the only responsibility. They should not try to fight the fire, rescue belongings, etc. Others can fight a small fire. The important thing is to protect the safety of that child. If possible, pre-locate a few toys and other things that can keep the child entertained once out of the house. Expect that the excitement will be a total disruption of the routine, so anything that can be available to make things more "normal" will help to decrease the level of anxiety.
Make sure that the fire department knows that there is a disabled child who has been taken from the house. It might be that oxygen, for example, is needed. Prepare the firemen for what they might face. It is helpful for the fire fighters know what they might see in the area of behaviors. In fact, a good idea is to let the fire department know about the disabled child and what your family plans are, before an emergency happens. A "field trip" to the fire department can be fun and educational, but also could help the fire department know the family, so that they are prepared to deal with the situation.
From what I observed with Jonathan, he was totally unaware of what had happened next door. He paid absolutely no attention to the burned out shell of the house. This leads me to believe that he may have been unaware of the fire, therefore, unaware of the danger. For this reason, a responsible adult needs to be even more aware of what is happening.
As with the theme of Autism Awareness Month, "Awareness Is the Key." Being aware of the dangers before they happen can help prevent a tragedy.


It's Summer
And That Means School Is Out
Summer is a mixed blessing for the parents of autistic children. It is the time of picnics, family get-togethers, beaches, and all the other fun events that three months of vacation can bring to a family. It is also the time of worry. The increased risk of accidents, get-togethers that create family tensions, day after day of unrelenting stress of keeping an autistic child busy can wear the most dedicated of parents down. The lazy hazy days of summer seem a dream for other families to enjoy. Moms and Dads get stressed, siblings get stressed and of course the Autistic child, dealing with enough of his or her own frustrations, picks up on the family stress creating a downward spiral that leaves everyone just waiting for school to start again.
It can be made easier for the whole family. It can even be fun. And it isn't that hard. Here are some simple, easy to implement ideas to make your family's summer a more enjoyable one. As the years go by, you will add in your own tricks and routines that will make things even easier.
   1. Prioritize your family life. The most common mistake made by parents, with the purest and best intentions at heart, is making autism their life. It cannot be all of your life. It is definitely a part of your life. It is absolutely a factor that influences decisions and actions in the family but it is not the reason your own family unit exists. Your faith, belief structure, value system - whatever you wish to call it - needs to be the first priority. Without that you have no anchor. Your next priority must be, if you are married, your spouse. In a future article I will be exploring that topic further, but for now realize that without a strong marital structure, the entire family suffers. Your next priority is your children, followed by extended family, work and all of the hobbies, interests and obligations that your family has. Keeping those priorities in order will help you keep a focus on the situations that come up everyday.
   2. Realize you cannot duplicate the school's routine. Give that one up right now. A family is more fluid and dynamic, and events occur unpredictably. This is part of the learning process for the Autistic child. Don't worry about it. The new routine as unorganized as it may seem to you will become your child's new routine. You may discover that this new routine, as hectic as it can get, will help draw your child out and aid in communication.
   3. Don't put the Autistic child's siblings on the "back burner" during summer trying to get in every therapy you can and making unrealistic goals for this child to achieve. Parents begin the summer with grandiose plans: swimming lessons, summer camps, vacation bible schools and more. But so often, one by one, the plans get dropped because of the difficulty in achieving these goals with an Autistic child as part of the package. Many programs are not set up to take disabled kids, not because of discrimination, but because of funding, time and qualified personnel. But big sister or brother needs those things to grow up and look back on his or her childhood without resentment. These siblings are together for life as it is. Sometimes there will be things that the siblings without Autism will be doing that the Autistic child just cannot participate in. That is okay. It is a difficult part of life to accept for parents but it is necessary for the healthy functioning of the other family members. Find a babysitter, have a relative stay with your child, talk to a local support group and go out with your kids that are not autistic. And above all when you do that, don't feel guilty.
    * GROUP GATHERINGS Don't assume someone is watching your Autistic child. It is very easy in a family or church group to assume everyone is watching and the result is that everyone thinks someone else is, and therefore no one is. Create a system of X number of people that will take turns being responsible for your child. If at all possible leave siblings out of this "chain of command." That will avoid the "I thought you were watching him" syndrome. Make a system that responsibility is handed to one person from another, a clear understanding has taken place. This will free the family to enjoy family get-togethers, church picnics or any group situation.
    * Get an ID bracelet for your child with his/her name on it, appropriate phone numbers (have a cell phone with you so that you are immediately accessible). It is a good idea to have the bracelet state "non-verbal autistic" or "limited verbal autistic" on it so that someone is aware immediately that there is a medical issue involved that prevents this child from telling who they are or asking for help.
    * Bring food for your child. If you have your child on a specific diet, bring what he/she needs. Also be sure that those in the "chain of command" know what is appropriate for this child to eat and not eat. Don't be intimidated by people who try to coax you into letting your child have something that not on his/her diet. If you wish to avoid a confrontation, which is always best in a group situation, simply state that many foods interact negatively with your child's medications.
    * Often in group settings, an autistic child will put on display all 2,953 of his/her worst behaviors. You may get looked at; you may see or sense disapproval. But you must remember that this is YOUR child and you owe no one an explanation beyond, "I'm sorry, my son (daughter) is autistic." If they then understand the problem is solved. If they don't understand and walk away, even with a judgmental attitude, the problem is still solved for now it is their problem and not yours. If they ask more, then you hit the jackpot and have a chance to educate one more person.
    * THERAPIES AND TREATMENTS In the summer many parents work to accomplish therapies that were not possible to do during the school year. It is a good time to begin a therapy that your school system does not provide. Music therapy has had some wonderful results and summer is a perfect time to work on something of this nature. But avoid the roller coaster ride of thinking that if one new therapy is good, six more are even better. You will exhaust everyone, especially the child you are trying to help. Try one this summer and see how it goes.
    * You may find you need to make medication adjustments in the summer. Kids grow, they can be much more active, the routines relax and changes may be appropriate. But don't change too much too quickly. It takes time for a new medication or a change in a medication to show. Bouncing a child all over the pharmaceutical spectrum is adding stress both mentally and physically. Along with that, don't use summer as the time for endless trips to several different doctors looking for something that will "kick" this Autism into a new form that will transform everyone's life. None of this is going to happen in a three-month span. It may take years to find just the right medications in the right balance but every day you are working toward the ultimate goal.
    * Now sit back and remember the ultimate goal. This applies to this summer, next summer, every summer, every school year and every single day. The ultimate goal is to make your Autistic child the best Autistic child he/she can be. That will mean there is a different goal for each child, each family and every one of those goals are right.




 Parents Full Name

Kid’s Name (s) & DOB

Our Address:


Our Phone #: _____________________________

Directions to our house (if needed for 911):


Where I’ll be going:


When I’ll be home:


Parent’s Work #

Cell Phone


Poison Control





Fire Dept.

Police Dept

Dr. Name & #






Safe Neighbor Name and Address


Other Emergency- Name & Phone #:’s



Ins. Company: ________________ Group # ___________ ID # __________________

Phone # _____________________ Allergies _________________________________

Medical Condition(s): ____________________________________________________

Medications: __________________ Dosage: ____________Time Given____________


Things the kids are not allowed to do: _________________________________________________________________


Things the kids can  do:_____________________________________________


Food Rules: Snacks, when & where ok:

Time out for wrong behavior is ________minutes: Where: __________________

BEDTIME  ________________________________________________________

Before Bed:  Pick up toys: yes / no   Homework:  yes / no    Bath:  yes / no


First Aid Kit

Fire Extinguisher

Medical Release

Fuse Box









Spare Keys

Door Alarms

List of Emergency Procedures






Single Parents at -Babysitters Info Sheet created by Dianne Prather 04/14/02

Reproducible for personal use only.


Self-Injurious Behavior

Written by Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.
Center for the Study of Autism, Salem, Oregon

Self-injurious behavior often refers to any behavior that can cause tissue damage, such as bruises, redness, and open wounds. The most common forms of these behaviors include head-banging, hand-biting, and excessive scratching or rubbing.

There are two major sets of theories on why people engage in self-injury-- physiological and social. Some of the physiological theories (and suggested treatments) are:

  1. These behaviors release beta-endorphins in the person's brain, which in turn, provides the person with a form of internal pleasure (beta-endorphins are endogenous opiate-like substances in the brain). (Treatment: If a person is given naltrexone, a beta-endorphin inhibitor, self-injury may decrease.)

  2. Sudden episodes of self-injury may be caused by sub-clinical seizures. Sub-clinical seizures are not typically associated with the characteristic behaviors of conventional seizures, but they are characterized by abnormal EEG patterns. (Treatment: The person should receive an extensive EEG to determine if the self-injury is associated with sub-clinical seizures.)

  3. Head-banging or ear hitting may be caused by a middle ear infection. (Treatment: The person should be given an extensive ear examination.)

  4. Some forms of self-injury may be a result of overarousal (such as frustration). Self-injury acts as a release, and thus, lowers arousal. (Treatment: One should try to reduce the person's general arousal level, such as through relaxation/visual imagery therapy, deep pressure, and exercise.)

  5. In some cases, self-injury may be a form of self-stimulatory, stereotypic behaviors. That is, they are repetitive, ritualistic behaviors which provide the individual with some form of sensory stimulation or arousal. (Treatment: Person could be given sensory integration therapy to normalize the senses.)

Some of the social theories explaining these behaviors are:

  1. Some individuals engage in self-injurious behaviors to obtain attention from other people. (Treatment: People in the environment should ignore the person when he/she engages in self-injury; thus, the person will learn that the behavior will not lead to attention.)

  2. Some individuals exhibit self-injury to escape or avoid a task. (Treatment: The person should be asked to complete the task rather than escape the task.)

Although it has not been discussed in the research literature, there is also the possibility that these behaviors could be related to hypersensitivity to certain sounds in the environment. For example, if a sound bothers an individual, he/she may react by hitting one's head or ears. (Treatment: One may consider trying auditory integration training.)

Basically, there are many reasons why people engage in self-injurious behavior. The best way to determine the reason for the behavior in an individual is to conduct a functional analysis. This involves analyzing what occurs prior to the behavior as well as what happens immediately after the behavior. If one can rule out possible social influences on the behavior, then physiological causes should be investigated.

The Autism Research Institute distributes an information packet on self-injury.  Click here to learn how to obtain this packet.

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Autism, Advocates, and Law Enforcement Professionals Recognizing and Reducing Risk Situations for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders ~ by Dennis Debbaudt
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
ISBN#1-85302-980-7 ~ $19.95

Individuals with developmental disorders are seven times more likely than other people to come into contact with police and their responses to encounters with the law may not always be socially appropriate. How can the needs and responses of people with autism spectrum disorders be reconciled with the duties of the police to serve and protect the community? In this book, private investigator and autism advocate Dennis Debbaudt provides essential information for both groups. He explains how typical manifestations of autism spectrum disorders, such as running away, unsteadiness, impulsive behavior or failure to respond, may be misunderstood by law enforcement professionals, with serious consequences. For individuals with ASDs, he offers advice on how to behave in encounters with police and other law enforcement professionals. Aimed at raising awareness and facilitating communication between people with autism and law enforcement professionals, this much-needed book will be a valuable resource for both communities.

Click here for more information and to order Dennis' book.

Click here to go to Dennis' website.

Dangerous Encounters: Avoiding Perilous Situations with Autism: A Streetwise Guide for All Emergency Responders, Retailers, and Parents ~ Bill Davis,Wendy Goldband Schunick
Most emergency workers, retailers and retail security know very little about autism. This book explains what to look for and how to successfully handle encounters with people who have autism. It takes emergency responders, retailers and parents through everyday situations, stressing safety and awareness. The authors explain the steps everyone can take to avoid difficult and dangerous situations with people with autism, and more general guidelines. Full of helpful ideas and key point reminders, the book is also an excellent training tool.

Click here to order Bill Davis' book.


Disability or Community Awareness

# Autism: Being Friends. (1991). Length: 9 minutes. Produced and distributed by the Indiana Resource Center for Autism. This video is designed as part of a disability awareness unit on autism. The video is most appropriate for elementary school students, however, it also can be used with older students and even for professional’s first learning about autism spectrum disorders. For ordering information, contact the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at 1-812-855-6508.
# Autism: Reaching the Child Within. (1981). Length: 30 minutes. Produced by WHA-TV. This video profiles three children with autism and their families. The program provides viewers with a description of the characteristics of autism and the trials of living with this disability. Professionals offer their insights into autism, and recommendations for effective treatment. While somewhat outdated, professionals and family members might be interested in gaining a historical perspective of autism. Distributed by PBS video. No longer available for sale.
# Autism and Law Enforcement: Roll Call Briefing Video. (2004). Length: 21 minutes. Produced by Dennis Debbaudt. This is an exceptional video to be used in training law enforcement personnel on interacting with people on the autism spectrum. Highly recommended for use in training. For ordering information, call Debbaudt/Legacy Productions at 1-772-398-9756 or online at
# Autism And The New Law: Resources for Treatment. Hope for Cure. (2001). Length: 30 minutes. Produced by Edvantage Media. This video was developed in conjunction with CAN (Cure Autism Now) and provides an overview of autism, and the potential impact of the new Advancement of Pediatric Autism Research passed as part of the Children’s Health Act of 2000. Recommended for those interested in learning more about this law. For ordering information, call Edvantage Media, Inc. at 1-800-375-5100 or online at
# Autism Awareness Video for Law Enforcement/Community Service Personnel. (1998). Length: 23 minutes. Developed by the Harrisburg Chapter of the Autism Society of America and funded by the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council. The video highlights behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorders, and provides recommendations for how community members and law enforcement agencies should interact with these individuals. Recommended as a disability awareness tool for community members and law enforcement personnel. For ordering information, contact the Autism Society of North Carolina at 1-919-743-0204 or online at
# Autism Perspectives. (1996). Length: 55 minutes. Funded by Continuing Education Programs of America. This video features Margaret Bauman, M.D.; Stephen Edelson, Ph.D.; Temple Grandin, Ph.D.; and Lorna Jean King, OTR, FAOTA responding to a series of frequently asked questions related to diagnosis, programming, early intervention, employment, characteristics, research, and sensory integration. The video ends with advice and suggestions to family members. Recommended for professionals and family members interested in hearing well-known professionals discussing issues related to autism spectrum disorders. For ordering information, call Continuing Education Programs of America at 1-309-263-0310 or online at
# Autism Spectrum Disorders. (2002). Length: 39 minutes. Produced by Glenis Benson. Featuring Dr Glenis Benson, this video provides an overview of the characteristics of autism and practical programming strategies, including functional behavioral assessments, social skills instruction, visual supports, and sensory programming. Recommended for professionals and family members interested in better understanding the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders and gaining an overview of several programming approaches. For ordering information, contact Attainment Company Production at 1-800-327-4269 or online at
# Credo for Support. (1995). Length: 4 minutes. Distributed by Axis Consultation and Training Limited. This powerful video, set to music, offers a series of suggestions for people who care about and support someone with a disability. It prompts viewers to question the common perceptions of disability, professionalism, and support. Designed for use in presentations, staff training and orientation programs, this excellent video can serve as a provocative catalyst for a dialogue on our values and issues. For ordering information, contact Axis Consultation and Training at 1-250-754-9939 or online at
# Encountering Autism. (2003). Length: 97 minutes. Presented by Bill Davis. This video seeks to prepare emergency responders for encounters with individuals with autism using a lecture format. Bill Davis addresses the challenges that emergency responders might encounter when they arrive on the scene and provides guidance on how to communicate and interact with individuals with autism. Includes a thorough overview and examples of the characteristics of autism. Recommended for any professional who may be involved in responding to emergencies involving individuals across the autism spectrum. For ordering information, contact Discount Learning online at
# For Safekeeping/First Responder Autism Training. (2003). Length: 21 minutes. Produced by Atlantic Film and Video. This video/DVD provides an overview of the characteristics associated with autism spectrum disorders, highlights four individuals to illustrate these characteristics, and provides useful recommendations for responding and interacting with these individuals. Recommended for professionals who may be involved in responding to emergencies involving individuals across the autism spectrum. For ordering information, contact Autism Alliance of Metro West, Inc. at 1-508-652-9900 or online at
# Rage for Order: Autism. (1998). Length: 50 minutes. Distributed by the Films for the Humanities and Sciences. Developed for the BBC and narrated by Oliver Sacks. Neurologist/author Oliver Saks meets Jessica Parks (a young woman with autism) and highlights the impact of autism on human relationships and interactions with the world. With Jessy’s parents, Dr. Saks investigates past efforts to define and understand autism. In addition, he explores the biological basis of autism with Dr. Eric Courchesne, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego. Recommended for family members and professionals interested in gaining a better understanding of the obsessions, fascinations, and the need for order and predictability of individuals with autism. For ordering information, contact the Films for the Humanities and Sciences at 1-800-257-5126 or online at
# Spectrum of Autism. (2002). Length: 34 minutes. A documentary produced and directed by Heidi Rosenthal. This video provides an overview of autism spectrum disorders, including interviews with Temple Grandin, BJ Freeman, Pauline Filipek, and numerous family members. Programming suggestions are also included. Recommended for family members of newly diagnosed children, or those just learning about autism. For ordering information, contact Fanlight Productions at 1-800-937-4113 or online at
# Straight Talk About Autism with Parents and Kids: Adolescent Issues. (1998). Length: 38 minutes. Produced by Attainment Company, Incorporated. This video features parents, and their sons and daughters with autism spectrum disorders. Issues covered include: teasing, establishing friendships, and issues related to adulthood. Recommended for older students with and without disabilities, and adults to promote awareness of autism spectrum disorders. For ordering information, contact Attainment Company at 1- 800-327-4269 or online at
# Straight Talk About Autism with Parents and Kids: Childhood Issues. (1998). Length: 38 minutes. Produced by Attainment Company, Incorporated. This video focuses on several families and their experiences in finding answers about their children’s differences and development that eventually lead to a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Parent and their children speak frankly from their perceptions and viewpoint. The video addresses many issues such as obtaining a diagnosis, identifying the warning signs of autism and the characteristics associated with autism, and developing supports for families and individuals. Recommended for family members and professionals. Particularly useful for families of children who are suspected of autism or who are newly diagnosed, and for professionals first learning about diagnosing autism spectrum disorders. For ordering information, contact Attainment Company at 1-800-327-4269 or online at
# Talk to Me: A Documentary Film Abut Children with Autism. (2003). Length: 28 minutes. Developed by Vanessa Kaneshiro. Families from various racial and socioeconomic backgrounds are highlighted in this video. Narrated by a child, this documentary takes viewers into the lives of three different children at home and at school, and profiles the efforts of parents and teacher to help them achieve their potential. Also, discusses the fiscal impact on schools. This video is helpful to build awareness for families, professionals, and siblings. For ordering information, contact Fanlight Productions at 1-800-937-4113 or online at
# Twitch and Shout: A Documentary About Tourette Syndrome. (1994). Produced and directed by Laurel Chiten. The Emmy Award nominated video provides an intimate journey into the world of Tourette Syndrome. Through the eyes of a photojournalist living with Tourette Syndrome, the viewer meets an artist, an actress, a NBA basketball player, and a lumberjack with TS. Recommended for professionals, family members, and peers as a means to provide awareness about Tourette Syndrome. For ordering information, contact New Day Films at 1-201-652-6590 or online at
# We’ve Climbed Mountains: Increasing Our Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders. (2001). Length: 17 minutes. Produced by Kim Davis/Indiana Resource Center for Autism. Autism is a word that conjures many images in the minds of the general public, and that is understood in various ways by family members and professionals. To help us understand what it truly means to have an autism spectrum disorder, it is important to listen to individuals with this diagnosis. This video provides general information about autism spectrum disorders with the hope of increasing overall awareness, especially about those with high-functioning autism/Asperger’s syndrome. Specific topics addressed include sensory challenges, social understanding, and responses to the diagnosis. For ordering information, contact the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at 1-812-855-6508.