As a parent of a child with autism, Holly Goodman was shocked to discover the lack of training for first responders when interacting with people on the spectrum.
Goodman, Founder and Executive Director of the Isaac Foundation, began speaking with local first responders about developing a training program to bridge the communication gap in 2014. This led to the creation of Autism in the Wild.
“A lot has changed since then,” she said.
The Spokane-based foundation is named after Goodman’s son, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and died suddenly before his fourth birthday. In her grief, she founded the nonprofit association to help families struggling with having a loved one affected by autism. She gave birth to her youngest son, who was later diagnosed with high-level autism, shortly after Isaac’s death.
The Isaac Foundation partners with Courageous Kids Climbing, a non-profit organization focused on teaching rock climbing to children with special needs. Together, the two groups have hosted Autism in the Wild for the past two years in McCall, Idaho.
When retired firefighter Jeff Riechmann first attended a training session on autism in the wild, he was overwhelmed as he had never received instructions like this before, he said. -he declares. Reichmann, who is executive director of Courageous Kids Climbing, knew the nonprofit had to get involved.
This year, nonprofits will host Autism in the Wild in the Asotin County Fire District in Clarkston, Wash. On Saturday, February 26. Training is free for first responders.
Goodman said the key to supporting people with autism is to first understand their minds and behavior. Communication is the number one challenge when people try to talk to people with autism, she added.
The program strives to improve communication by understanding behavior, said Goodman. During the training, advocates describe effective interaction techniques and discuss common behaviors so that participants can respond appropriately.
“Once you have the code to decipher your understanding of what you are seeing, then it’s really not a blur anymore,” Goodman said. “People think of bad behavior when it’s really them who react to their environment in a certain way. “
The large-scale goal is to improve outcomes for patients and first responders, she noted.
The Isaac Foundation is working with municipalities and local fire stations to invite children with disabilities to practice interacting with first responders in a non-emergency situation, Goodman said.
“We teach our loved ones what the expectations are for interacting with first responders, which is the other half of the equation,” she said.
The nonprofit also offers training to various groups related to children with autism, such as teachers, nurses and youth programs, Goodman added.
“We are doing it now for a large population of people who have diversity in their programs,” she said.
Courageous Kids Climbing also works with local fire departments to introduce children with special needs to first responders. Riechmann said he invites firefighters to wear their rescue harnesses during climbing events.
“It slowly morphed into giving kids their own fire engine tour, which made [them feel] less afraid of people in uniform, ”he said.
The Isaac Foundation typically charges a training fee to cover transportation costs. But to honor the work being done by Courageous Kids Climbing, Goodman said, there is no cost associated with the session.
“It’s a good opportunity when people see us doing [the training] in partnership with Courageous Kids Climbing, ”said Goodman. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to access it for free. “