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First Responders and Disabilities

By Natalie Lambert

· Handicap,Disability,First Responder,Emergency,Special Needs

As a parent of an individual with a disability, I am well versed in the Special Needs Community. I live there daily, drawing support from it. The wealth of knowledge this collective group imparts is immense and invaluable. I have often thought that we need to reach out and include others in this community, those who may not share this lived experience. How much easier would it be to coexist if we have a shared understanding of the challenges in each other’s lives?

Earlier this week, Tennessee Valley Unite invited First Responders in the Madison County Alabama area to training for individuals with disabilities. Dustin Chandler of Interaction Advisory Group provided this training. The training covered identifying individuals with disabilities and how to interact with them in a crisis. With about 25 in attendance, we were able to witness as they obtained a greater understanding of these individuals and additionally how vital First Responders is to the Special Needs Community. Those in attendance asked different questions and discussed the best practices for working with varied individuals with a disability.

One of the situations discussed was the tendency for many with developmental disabilities to wander or elope. This scenario happens to be one of the biggest fears of caretakers and many times is cause for First Responders to get involved. The discussion included what steps to take to find the individual and then how to interact after they had been found. Dustin stressed that First Responders need always to be aware of the Environment and how it could affect the individual with disabilities’ behavior and adjust accordingly.

The First Responders commented on how grateful they were for the training. They echoed each other in need of more training and a more significant connection with the Special Needs Community. I was able to speak individually with many of them, answering questions and suggesting ideas for cooperative endeavors.

To all those in the Special Needs Community who have thought about reaching out to those around them, don’t hesitate. They are willing to join you and learn from you. As it goes, it takes a village. Let’s expand ours as large as we can, creating a vast network of individuals that will care for our loved ones with disabilities.

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