Autism Cymru's Emergency Services Card launched in Cardiff|
CARDIFF, Wales: Autism Cymru's Emergency Services Card was launched in Cardiff on October 17 by Edwina Hart, the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services.
Speaking at the launch in the Oriel Gallery of the Senedd, Welsh Assembly Government, in Cardiff Bay, Chief Constable Mike Tonge of Gwent Police said: "The card scheme being launched today will alert my staff of the needs of people who have autistic spectrum disorders. It is an important scheme because it is a true partnership between the voluntary and public sector - between Gwent Police and personnel from Autism Cymru. The police service across Wales is committed to delivering a quality service to the public through our Citizen Focus policing agenda. This style of policing reflects the needs and expectations of all our communities.
"Gwent Police recognises that within its communities there are people who may be vulnerable. It is important to understand that, when we come into contact with them, we do so in a responsive manner.
"People with ASDs have dealings with many of my staff on a regular basis, and I need to ensure that the service we provide is appropriate with their needs.
"We know from research commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government and undertaken by Autism Cymru and Bangor University, that professionals within the Criminal Justice System are eager to learn more about ASDs. With this is mind, Gwent Police, working with Maggie Bowen from Autism Cymru, organised two half-day training events to raise awareness amongst staff of ASD and about the new card scheme. The response, I am pleased to say, was overwhelming. Indeed, for the first session, we were in the unfortunate position of turning people away! In total, 260 police personnel attended the training days. This in itself shows the level of interest in this disability and a dedication to helping those with it."
Deputy Chief Constable Peter Vaughan of South Wales Police said: "We know, from listening to individuals with ASDs, that certain aspects of social communication and social relationships that many people take for granted can present them with difficulties and lead to misunderstandings with the general public. Some writers with ASDs say that they feel like aliens living on the wrong planet and that they are baffled by the behaviour of those around them ...
"South Wales Police has not only listened and joined this work by introducing the card scheme but we have changed the way our organisation will respond to community members with this disorder ... In effect, this means that the police service recognise that people with this disorder are part of a minority group with whom we will take special measures when we are able to maximise, effective communication in our dealings with them as service users, be this as community members, victims and if necessary as suspects.
"We very much hope that the Attention Card Scheme and our partnership with Autism Cymru will ensure that individuals with ASDs will have access to a service that meets their individual needs. We know from the research evidence that the scheme has been welcomed by individuals with ASDs, their families and professionals in the North and we are sure that it is also a much needed scheme in the South. I too look forward to monitoring its impact on service provision."
People with ASDs can be the victims of crime or, because of a lack of awareness of health and safety issues, they may be involved in an accident. In stressful situations, they may become very anxious and react in a threatening and aggressive way which can lead to potential conflict with police officers and/or arrest. Their anxiety can be exacerbated by any change in their normal situation. Many people suffering with ASDs have a fear of the unknown, the sounds of sirens, the smell of medication and have a fear of being touched. Consequently, the ability for patrol officers quickly and appropriately to identify individuals who have ASDs will aid our management of the individual, the situation and enable Gwent and South Wales Police as an organisation to provide an appropriate service to this very vulnerable section of our community.
The Attention Card is designed to alert the emergency services to the fact that the holder has ASD. Each Attention Card has a unique reference number which is stored on a central database (managed by Autism Cymru). The database holds details of the card holder and who to contact in an emergency.
The Emergency Services Card for people to carry explaining the problem is now available from Autism Cymru.
General advice for the emergency services includes:
• Keep your language simple
• Keep facial expressions and gestures simple
• Provide visual clues in relation to procedures - what is going to happen next
• Ask one question at a time and give time for an answer
• Give one instruction at a time
• Keep your language as literal as possible- do not use idioms
• Use the person’s name to get their attention
• Prepare the person for any personal or physical contact
• Be sensitive to the sounds, lighting and smells in the environment which could lead to distress.
For further information about the card or ASD and the Criminal Justice System contact:
Autism Cymru, 64 Newport Road, Cardiff, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Source: Autism Cymru, October 17, 2007)