TWAP032: Autism Risk and Safety Management

Private Investigator Dennis Debaudt Shares Tips and Strategies

Joining me this week is the amazing Dennis Debbaudt, consultant to law enforcement and first responders on the topic of autism risk and safety management.

autism safety management

Here’s some background on Dennis, from his site:

Dennis Debbaudt is the leading global voice on autism training for law enforcement and emergency responders.

Dennis Debbaudt was first to address the interactions between law enforcement and people with autism in his 1994 report Avoiding Unfortunate Situations. He has since authored a full-length book, nearly 40 reports, book chapters and produced innovative and acclaimed training videos for law enforcement and first responders such as paramedics, fire rescue, police, and hospital staff who may respond to an autism emergency. Dennis has written for the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and is a cited resource for the Department of Homeland Security. He has developed training and consulted to the NYPD and Chicago Police Department. Since 1995, he has presented his multi-media training at the invitation of the Illinois Attorney General, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Team ADAM, Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police conference, Fire Safety Educators of the Rockies Conference, Project Lifesaver International, Houston, Cincinnati, Toledo and New Hampshire training academies and in training rooms throughout North America and in Australia, New Zealand, Iceland and the United Kingdom. 

This Episode’s Premise:

 As parents, teachers, and therapists we can be empowered to effectively advocate for and protect our autistic loved ones with autism risk and safety management strategies.

What is A Risk Assessment?

In general, to do an assessment, you should:

  • Identify hazards.
  • Evaluate the likelihood of an injury or illness occurring, and its severity.
  • Consider normal operational situations as well as non-standard events such as shutdowns, power outages, emergencies, etc.
  • Review all available health and safety information about the hazard such as MSDSs, manufacturers literature, information from reputable organizations, results of testing, etc.
  • Identify actions necessary to eliminate or control the risk.
  • Monitor and evaluate to confirm the risk is controlled.
  • Keep any documentation or records that may be necessary. Documentation may include detailing the process used to assess the risk, outlining any evaluations, or detailing how conclusions were made.

When doing an assessment, you must take into account:

  • The methods and procedures used in the processing, use, handling or storage of the substance, etc.
  • The actual and the potential exposure of workers.
  • The measures and procedures necessary to control such exposure by mean

source: Canadian Centre for Health and Safety

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • How a seasoned detective and writer became involved in autism risk and safety management
  • The mall story and how Dennis was suspected as a possible kidnapper of his own son!
  • A statistic from Dennis’ research – people with developmental neurological conditions come in contact with law enforcement 7 more times than the average population.
  • Dennis conducted an informal survey of law enforcement professionals across the country and asked this question –  What percentage of calls you receive, say out of every 100 calls, ends up being a criminal justice event.  The answer was about 20%.   The other 80% were public safety related.  This percentage holds true for the autism population as well.  80% of calls have to do with either an aggressive person, or a suspicious person report, or elopement.
  • Disclosing the need for accommodation to the police is a risk and safety management safety strategy.  
  • How to deal with an escalated situation – 

    1.  Need to know it is autism related
    2. Remove weapons from the home
    3. Time is your ally – the more time you give the person, the more time it gives them to calm down.  This is time well spent, saving resources and money
    4. Avoid litigation.
    5. Stay calm, given the person space, use short phrases, loud enough to be heard, and assure the person you’ll give them all the time they need to calm down.
    6. DON’T use jokes, colloquialisms, figures of speech, or slang
    7. Remember that, as first responders, teachers, parents, and therapists, that when we model calm and appropriate behavior, the other party is likely to copy us.

Autism Risk and Safety Management Links and Resources:

Dennis Debbaudt’s main sites:

Autism Risk and Safety Management

Debbaudt Legacy Productions

Autism On Site Response Cards – 

  • Designed for law enforcement and first response field use.
  • Contains key communication and response information for first responders.
  • Can be used by children and adults with autism, parents and care providers as an on-scene handout.
  • Laminated cards come in two sizes, small (business card) or large.
  • Card front sample statements:
    • Communication – “May not respond to your commands or questions”
    • Behavior – “May laugh or giggle at your presence”
    • In Criminal Justice Situations – “May not understand consequences of their actions”
  • Tips for interacting with persons with autism
    • “Use simple language”
    • “Give praise and encouragement”
    • “Allow extra time for response”

Autism Emergency Contact Form  –  This emergency contact can be embedded in the 911 system

How To Develop Your Own Personal Safety Plan

photo credit – michael fahy

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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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