|Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), isn’t always easily recognizable to those who don’t know the signs, making people living on the spectrum particularly vulnerable in emergency situations. In honour of Autism Awareness Month, we’re spotlighting our important partnership with Autism Canada.
ASD is a lifelong neurological disorder that affects how a person communicates and relates to the people and world around them. An estimated 1 in 66 Canadian children live on the autism spectrum, making it the most commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental condition. Almost 50% of those living on the spectrum are non-verbal, prone to wandering, or can sometimes find themselves in troubling, difficult and/or dangerous situations. Because ASD is a spectrum disorder, the degree to which each person experiences these challenges will be different.
If you or someone you care for lives with autism, you may fear emergency situations where communication is hindered or not at all possible, such as a fire, a medical emergency, or a situation involving the police. An emergency responder may unintentionally trigger violent behaviour if they’re unaware that an individual is living with ASD.
“Many of those living on the spectrum have sensory issues, and in a situation that overwhelms their senses (such as loud noises or bright lights), they may suddenly wander or bolt from their family or caregivers,” says Michelle Colero, Executive Director, Autism Canada. “When they then find themselves alone in an unknown setting, they are often stressed and not receptive to those trying to help.”
Being able to communicate personal or medical information is critical in these situations. That’s why we partnered with Autism Canada to create the MedicAlert Autism Program: an effective way to identify someone in an emergency, understand how to de-escalate a potentially volatile situation, and reunite them with family or caregivers.
“Autism Canada believes that everyone deserves to be cared for with respect in an emergency situation,” says Colero “Having a MedicAlert ID allows first responders, police, and hospital staff to quickly determine ways to communicate with an autistic child or adult. Thanks to the information on the MedicAlert file, they will understand the actions or words that can trigger aggressive behaviour and then use appropriate de-escalation techniques.”
This life-saving program supports Canadians living with autism and provides peace of mind to their families and caregivers. Visit medicalert.ca/autism to learn more about this vital program and how we’re working to protect more people living on the Autism spectrum.