FAU CARD Awarded Grant to Train First Responders

child with autism playing with wooden car

by Torica Exume | Monday, Sep 26, 2022

Florida Atlantic University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (FAU CARD) received a grant from the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council which will allow FAU CARD to develop and provide training to law enforcement personnel and first responders, i.e., emergency medical specialist, firefighters, and other co-trained responders, who will encounter, interact and intervene with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The research project will focus on developing workshops to train responders with different evidence-based communication strategies, e.g., verbally, augmentative devices, appropriate de-escalation strategies, behavior management techniques and safe physical management considering physical limitations.

Jack Scott, Ph.D., FAU CARD Executive Director and primary investigator, and Torica Exume, Ph.D., FAU CARD program supervisor, will lead the project. Supportive collaborations include Jacqueline Woods, FAU CARD, Dennis Debbaudt, National Law Enforcement and ASD Training Specialist, Stacey Hoaglund, Autism Society of Florida, Palm Beach Sheriff Department, FAU Academy for Community Inclusion and others.

“Training first responders on how to communicate with I/DD individuals effectively will help to understand not only the disorder characteristics, but also how to interact with them and how to best manage risk in high-stress situations with the individual. For example, communication challenges may lead to multiple opportunities for confusion and actions that may be misinterpreted or may cause an unnecessary increase in escalation during emergencies,” Exume said.

Nearly $150,000 will fund a beginning project to appoint an advisory committee, investigate state legislative rules and policies regarding the training of law enforcement personnel, first responders, and emergency medical and mental health personnel in I/DD and co-occurring mental health diagnoses, as well as develop in-person and virtual workshop series in various parts of the State.