First off, while this is about autism, there is information in here that is for any family with a disability. Please take a moment and read it.
I want to thank Dr. Linda Barboa, co-founder of Stars 4 Autism and author of more than twenty books on autism and specifically, how those on and off the spectrum can communicate properly. She joined me last night on our weekly Mental Health Social Interest Group Call to talk about making a city autism-friendly.
Dr. Barboa, along with several others, put together the criteria for being an autism-friendly city and then wrote the training material for it.
Before Dr. Barboa spoke, as a group, we discussed what an autism-friendly city would like.
We decided that patience was a big part of it as was respect for the differences of others. With the patience, it was not only learning to deal with and help a different type of individual, but also patience on the part of an individual as they deal with someone on the spectrum.
As we learned, many of us on the spectrum, I say us because I have Asperger’s Syndrome, have slowed processing. That is, if you ask us a question or are waiting for a response from us, you may have to wait a moment.
You see, we have to stop what we’re doing at the moment. Put that away and now start looking for the answer to the question you asked us. It sometimes takes a moment to find and if the person we’re speaking with is patient, it makes things much more relaxing for us.
The training for an autism-friendly city starts with the city government, city employees, first responders, teachers, businesses and any individual interested in learning about autism and how they can accept an autistic person into their circle of friends.
They all get trained in what autism is, what it isn’t, what some of our limitations are, what we bring to the table as far as typical skill sets and how best to deal with us in certain situations.
Families with disabilities, not just autism, can contact their local county government to let them know there is a non-verbal autistic living there, or that someone is in a wheelchair or a resident has Parkinson’s and won’t be very stable.
Each government handles things differently, but the information is relayed to 911 and when/if you ever have to call in, the responders will be aware of the situation and will be better prepared to have the situation go in a calm direction.
For example, if someone on the spectrum sees several first responders coming at them, their first, and natural, reaction would be to run, to have a panic attack, to curl up in a ball, to fight back or to react in one of numerous ways. The officers will know what is and what isn’t normal behaviour for an autistic person.
Businesses can be trained and in fact, Dr. Barboa somehow finds the time to come up with new books, including ones aimed at restaurants, hairdressers/barbers, bus drivers and more. You can check out her Amazon page for all the book info.
So. What would an autism-friendly city look like to you?
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