On Tuesday afternoon, Autism Speaks launched the expansion of our partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by teaming up to provide autism safety and wandering prevention training for the New York Police Department. The training was co-presented by Lindsay Naeder, Director of Autism Speaks’ Autism Response Team and Robert Hoever, Director of Special Programs/Missing Children Division at NCMEC.
Since partnering in January 2014, Autism Speaks and NCMEC have worked together on more than 210 active autism wandering emergencies, offering technical assistance to first responders, increasing critical awareness of wandering incidents at the community level and providing ongoing support to families.
“Providing first responder training at the national level is a critical step towards increasing the safety of the autism community, by ensuring that first responders have the tools they need to effectively respond to an emergency involving a person with autism,” said Naeder. “We are proud to launch the expansion of this important autism safety partnership, beginning with the NYPD - the largest police force in the nation.”
The training entitled ‘Autism Safety Awareness and Wandering Prevention’ was offered as a part of the NYPD Special Victims Investigator Course at the Medical Examiner’s Training Facility, which was filled with over 200 detectives, lieutenants and other command level investigative personnel. Special investigators and external law enforcement agencies from across the nation were also present, including U.S. Marshals, FBI agents, Housing Authorities representatives and Administration for Children Services Special Officers.
The objective of this NYPD training and all future autism trainings is to increase first responders’ understanding and recognition of autism and provide them with essential tools and strategies to help prepare them to effectively respond to situations involving individuals with autism, and further develop autism safety protocols.
“This topic is particularly important for our special investigators given some of the challenges of autism that increase risk,” said Ralph Cilento, NYPD Commanding Officer of Detective Bureau Training Unit. “Autism training promotes safety and can help prevent potential misunderstandings with first responders.”
An important point Hoever stressed during the training was that every minute is critical when it comes to missing cases involving a child with autism and special needs. Hoever encouraged all first responders working on a missing child case to call the NCMEC’s 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST, which will provide support to the law enforcement community with resources, technical assistance or Team Adam deployment if needed.
At the conclusion of the training, a Detective shared that she found the information provided about communication tips and interview techniques invaluable to the work she does in the field around interviewing victims of abuse who have communication challenges. She plans to use the strategies and techniques covered to provide further training to her own squad and develop their best practices for interviewing people with autism or other special needs.
Autism Speaks and NCMEC will continue to provide first responder trainings with national impact in order to promote the safety of all people with autism. Upcoming opportunities include “Train the Trainer” sessions at the National Sheriffs Association Conference, Crimes Against Children Conference, department training bureaus and State Missing Persons Clearing Houses, to create sustainable and ongoing autism training models, as well as actionable plans for community affairs engagement.
Visit www.AutismSpeaks.org/wandering-resources for our safety and wandering prevention resources and information for first responders and families.