Dennis Debbaudt is an investigator, advocate and parent who dedicates himself to helping families, law enforcement and communities deal with the special needs of people with autism. His groundbreaking work includes a book, training videos for first responders, and multimedia presentations. His efforts and dedication has inspired others to call him the leading voice in autism training for emergency responders and law enforcement.
Interview with Dennis Debbaudt
LoveToKnow (LTK): Autism behavior during law enforcement is a serious issue. What inspired you to write Avoiding Unfortunate Situations?
Dennis Debbaudt (DD): My son, Brad, and my discovery in the late 1980s that there were no safety and risk resources about autism for law enforcement and the autism community led me to write that report in 1993.
LTK: Your subsequent book offers a unique perspective because you are both a parent and a licensed private investigator. Can parents benefit from reading Autism, Advocates and Law Enforcement Professionals?
DD: Absolutely! It's written in two sections: the law enforcement perspective and the citizen's perspective. Mutual understanding of each other's needs can really upgrade safety at home and in the community. So, parents that read both sections should have a better understanding of what to expect...and law enforcement professionals that read the book will understand what a family may be concerned with. It's meant to be a win-win!
Autism Behavior and Law Enforcement
LTK: What is the single most important thing parents can do to ensure their children's safety?
DD: Be prepared to proactively disclose needs in a variety of situations. Develop a plan and practice responses to emergencies or sudden interactions with law enforcement and emergency personnel. The book provides scenarios and plans for disclosure and preparation for an autism emergency.
LTK: Are there other steps they can take to help their local law enforcement agencies?
DD: Families can suggest and support high-quality, professional training for regional law enforcement, fire-rescue, emergency medical, public safety, juvenile and criminal justice professionals.
LTK: Are there special challenges when dealing with a person with high functioning autism?
DD: Without a disclosure or first-hand knowledge that the person has a spectrum condition, the law enforcement or first response professional may have difficulty with direct and social communications including body language. Whether in the field or in an interview setting, the nuances of spoken communications such as jokes, innuendos, figures of speech, meanings of words beyond the first meaning, and body language including eye contact, shrugs, facial and hand gestures will make effective communications for both the person on the spectrum and the professional much more difficult. Disclosure and training can enhance the quality of communications for both parties.
Autism Risk and Safety Management
LTK: The Autism Risk and Safety Management website offers a wealth of information. Which resources are most beneficial for parents?
DD: Well, I hope they all are! Two resources that stand out are the Autism Emergency Contact Form and the On Scene Response Cards. The site also contains downloadable resources, including information for developing an Individual Education Plan (IEP).
LTK: What kind of presentations do you offer, and which are best for parents to consider attending?
DD: I present to a law enforcement, public safety, juvenile and criminal justice professionals, search and rescue, hospital and private security, emergency preparedness, 911 telecommunications and related audiences on autism safety and risk issues.
My Plan Your Response for an Autism Emergency session gets a very positive response from parents, family members and educators.
LTK: How can a community or organization schedule a presentation?
DD: Just visit Autism Risk and Safety Mangement. Presentations are scheduled 90 days or more in advance.
Special Thanks to Dennis Debbaudt
LoveToKnow extends special thanks to Dennis Debbaudt for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer questions for our readers, and for his dedication to helping families dealing with autism. You can learn more about developing a good bond with first response and law enforcement in your community by visiting Autism Risk and Safety Management's website and Facebook page.