• Emergency responders get autism training


    SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - A north Fulton County police department is being trained on how to respond to people with autism.
    Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston met with Austin Harris Friday. He has autism and thinks it's important others, especially police and firefighters, be aware that they are dealing with an autistic person if they respond to an emergency.
    "I'm able to articulate and be out there and teach people what it's like to be a person with autism," Harris said.
    "Austin has autism and I'm the mother of two teenagers with autism, so we just get it," said Debi Taylor, Austin’s mother.
    Harris and Taylor are DeKalb County first responders. They spent hours training 23 Sandy Springs police officers and firefighters.
    "(We’re) giving officers and first responders tools to understand what they're seeing on scene and the tools to size up the situation more effectively and be able to adopt responses,” Taylor said.
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every 64 Georgians has autism, so the chance is high an officer will encounter someone with autism. 
    The officers learned how to look for telltale signs of autism, like a person refusing to look at the officer's face, or covering their ears as if not listening.
    Huddleston talked to police officers who said what they learned will help them better handle a person with autism.
    Detective J.T. Williams told Huddleston after the training he believes he responded to a call that involved a person who is autistic, but he didn't know it at the time.
    "I think it's excellent," Williams said. "It really brings it into perspective as a law enforcement officer, how to communicate and treat these people the way you're supposed to."

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