Autism program helps parents, officials and children to deal with emergency situations

DOVER, NH — It's a scenario that every parent of child with autism dreads.

Suddenly you're involved in some sort of accident, and your child is alone and confused and could be easily startled by the presence of emergency personnel.

It's a scenario that many in the community with autistic children are beginning to prepare for.

Six area families, including four from Dover, signed up for the Easter Seals Autism Awareness 911 program during an open house last Thursday night outside of the McConnell Center. The program allows for parents to fill out a profile of their child, which is then forwarded to the city or local dispatch centers so those homes with autistic children can be flagged for police, fire and emergency personnel.

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Information also is forwarded to New Hampshire 911 to flag the phone number.

During Thursday's event, several autistic children had a chance to interact with firefighters and police officers, along with some of their equipment and apparatus.

Dover resident Marie Berman said the event was the perfect opportunity to familiarize her 6-year-old daughter with firefighters and their equipment.

"It's good for her to learn that if she is in danger, these are the people that can help," Berman said.

Berman's daughter has sensory issues and gets scared by loud noises and crowded places. Berman said it's good for her to be around the fire trucks and police cars, so she could hear the sirens.

"It helps her to not be afraid," Berman said.

Elizabeth Webster, who founded the program with her partner Dawn Brady, said the two have worked with police in Manchester and Concord. They hope to spread the program throughout the state.

The next autism event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 13 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the McConnell Center.

Article published Jun 6, 2008 -

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