LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—Centers for Disease Control said 1 in 88 children in the United States have been diagnosed with autism.
Communication can be difficult for some people with autism, especially in an emergency; so Thursday, Chileda gave first responders a tool to make their job easier, an emergency communication picture board.
Officers can use the Emergency Communication Board to ask people simple questions like what is your name. And a person can use the keyboard to spell it out.
"I need a drink of water, but I can't tell you," Ruth Wiseman, President of Chileda said. "I need a drink of water then it might come out as a behavior. It might look like somebody running away, it might look like aggression, it might look like self injury."
Wiseman has heard stories of some first responders assuming a person with autism is intoxicated because they can't communicate.
"So they're treated them in a way certainly we would not consider even humane for someone that had autism," Wiseman said.
It's frustrating for officers too.
"Generally police officers are pretty good communicators," Chief Ron Tischer, La Crosse Police Department said. "They can communicate with people with a lot of different things in their lives. When they can't communicate, it's really frustrating for them because they want to help."
"They might want to try to tell you something but they just can't get it out," Wiseman said. "So if we can show them a picture and say this is what's going to happen next this helps calm fears and anxiety."
Communicating with pictures isn't a new idea; Chileda has pictures all around their building to help children express themselves.
"A simple picture reduces that need to go to that level," Wiseman said.
Only now, pictures are speeding up the process for first responders.
"The sooner we can get a handle on the patient's condition, the severity of it, then we can start tailoring a treatment plan directly towards them," Chief Gregg Cleveland, La Crosse Fire Department said.
Even if they only use this new tool once, if it helps somebody, it's worth its weight in gold.
Chileda has spent the past four years working on these one of a kind Emergency Communication Boards.
A $3,000 donation from the La Crosse Area Autism Foundation helped make them possible.
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