This post is by Lisa Goring, Vice President of Family Services
The remarkable rescue of William Martin LaFever was a result of the strong survival instincts of William Martin LaFever, as well as the quick thinking and the knowledge that Deputy Ray Gardner of the Garfield County Sheriff’s department utilized. Deputy Gardner had recently participated in training in search and rescue operations for people with autism. During this training he had learned that many people with autism are drawn to water, and it was with this knowledge that he was aboard a helicopter that was searching along the Escalante River for LaFever. We at Autism Speaks are thankful that William Martin LaFever is safe, and we applaud Deputy Gardner and the Garfield County Sheriff’s department for participating in first responder training for people with autism.
The prevalence of autism is currently 1 in 88 children or more than 1% of the U.S. population. Autism is defined by challenges in communication, social interactions and repetitive behaviors. These challenges can in some cases also present safety risks including a tendency for some with autism to wander or elope. Given these risks it is imperative that first responder training take place throughout the country so that in the event of an emergency, first responders are well prepared to support this growing population.
For additional information please see the Autism Safety Project which provides information for first responders as well AWAARE (Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response Education) which provides information specifically about wandering and wandering prevention.
Read more about LaFever’s rescue.