First responders getting trained on how to deal with missing children with autism

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has developed training for 911 telecommunicators to help find children with autism who are reported missing.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has developed training for 911 telecommunicators to help find children with autism who are reported missing, something that can go a long way for families who have children with autism, because every second counts when trying to find a child with autism that’s reported missing.

In a way – this training cuts the middleman out – and gets information to the right people to help find the child safely.

Mandy Conner, Parent 0;56 “Fear, anxiety, emotions, very high emotions, because it’s very nerve-racking,” said Mandy Conner, a parent who has a child with autism.

Any parent would attest to that.

Conner is a mom to 14-year-old Katelyn or KK. She has non-verbal autism, and her mom says they have a system in place for her protection.

“She stays in our in our area, we live next door to family members and have always shared information about our daughter with our community so that they know her,” said Conner.

Conner said they’ve been fortunate.

Last year – News4Jax reported multiple cases of children with autism reported missing – and drowned.

The Autism Society said in Florida, drowning is the #1 cause of death in children with autism.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Investigator Chad Hoffman said this is a very real issue – that they want to try and help solve.

“What we found through just dealing with missing kids and dealing with the other police organizations out there, that there was some training that was lacking when it pertained to children that go missing that have autism,” said Hoffman.

They’re using an Enhanced Missing Child Alert with a wireless emergency alert system that will focus on the neighborhood where the child went missing.

He says 911 telecommunicators have to know to ask parents if their child has autism so the FDLE can be contacted, and the alert will be sent out sooner.

“So we’ve gone from a process that might take 2, 3, 4 or 5 hours, to a process that will take literally 10, 15, 20 minutes to do,” said Hoffman.

He is confident that this operation is better than what they did before.

Conner said this is important because autism is always evolving.

“Our first responders doing this as an amazing tool. I think this is great for everyone,” said Conner.

Another parent, Diamond Cook, said that this training is long overdue.

“My son has no sense of danger, no sense of fear, no sense of knowing they are missing, no sense of knowing who they are looking for, or no sense at all. So I think this needs to be taught on top of many classes to authority roles on how to handle boys like mine,” said Cook. “So glad it’s being brought to the surface.”

The training is already out and the FDLE said they have agencies across the state wanting to participate in the training.

Click here to see the training material.

About the Author:

A Florida-born, Emmy Award winning journalist and proud NC A&T SU grad