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Giant Steps develops autism training program for first responders

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Understanding how to deal with people with autism is important. Giant Steps, a not-for-profit organization in Lisle, is making this possible. (WLS)

The Center for Disease Control and prevention say one in 68 American children have an autism spectrum disorder. This is 30 percent more than two years ago.

There is a need to educate the public about this population, especially since they have a wide range of communications, social and intellectual abilities.

From first responders to safety professionals plus the general public, understanding how to deal with people with autism is important. Giant Steps, a not-for-profit organization in Lisle, is making this possible.

The organization developed an autism training program for first responders.

"The training piece really is to provide education and to provide a bridge so that people out there who are trying to help have some information and better understanding of the challenges that people living with autism face every day," said Bridget O'Connor, the CEO of Giant Steps.

"We have a school that provides programming for ages 5-22 and then we have canopy, which provides adult services for people over the age of 22," O'Connor said.

Communication is the biggest challenge for people with autism.

"They might take longer to respond to a question and before a person with autism has a chance to process the information," O'Connor said. "For people who aren't able to communicate verbally, they sometimes are very versed in responding using picture symbols or using a different type of communication system."

One of the best methods of training the public to understand people with autism is to bring them to Giant Steps.

"We can do the training here and they get to walk through the building," O'Connor said. "They will meet children who have significant challenges and they will meet children who they question why they are here because they seem to be able to function out in the bigger world."

Giant Steps may be the only organization in the Chicago area offering this kind of training.

"I am unaware of anyone else out there doing it, we have been overwhelmed by the interest of people who want the information and want that training, and we are thrilled to be able to offer it to anybody and tailor it to what their needs are," O'Connor said.

Giant Steps' autism training is free. Depending on the situation they can provide anywhere between two to eight hours of training. For more information visit www.mygiantsteps.org.
Related Topics:
educationeducationdisabilitydisability issuesautismLisle
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