Group pushing autism awareness

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

PROCTORVILLE —Emergency situations can be frightening to children; the lights, sirens and flurry of activity can be scary.

For children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome — another form of autism — emergency situations can be dramatically more frightening due to their heightened sense of sound, hearing and an increased sensitivity to light.

An event Saturday will provide training to emergency personnel who may not know how to deal with patients with disorders in the autism spectrum during events such as car accidents, fires or other traumatic events.

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The Lawrence County Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism Group will be sponsoring “Safety Day” Saturday at the Proctorville Community Volunteer Fire Station.

Emergency personnel will have one and a half hours of training beginning at 10 a.m.

Then, young children and the rest of the community are invited to tour the station and examine the gear that the firefighters use. Police cruisers and ambulances will also be on hand, as well as the fire department’s educational “smoke house.”

Karen Graham, one of the founders of the group, said the event is the first of its kind in the county, but it’s something that is needed.

“There is really a need to educate the public because autism is more prevalent than people think. There are so many misconceptions about autism,” Graham said.

“Many people think people with the disorder are like ‘Rain Man’, someone who rocks and can’t function. But, that’s not true.”

Graham’s 7-year-old son was diagnosed with autism a little over a year ago. He is in first grade at Chesapeake Elementary.

“Because someone has autism doesn’t mean they cannot lead normal, productive lives,” Graham said.

But, she said, they do need to be dealt with differently in emergency situations.

For more information about the autism support group or Saturday’s “Safety Day” call Graham at (740) 886-7987.

The next group meeting is at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 6, in the social hall of the Chesapeake Southern Baptist Church.