Educating First Responders
Published Jun. 5, 2017
I was in a car accident in 2001; I was injured and my 7 year old son, who is autistic, was in the back seat with our groceries, as we had just come from the store. Police tried to use a teddy bear to get my son out of the car, but he cared about nothing but his "broken watermelon" on the back seat. I tried to tell the first responders that he was autistic, but they had no idea what to do. This started my journey to educate first responders.
In 2005, I worked with Senator Debbie Regala to introduce and pass legislation for an interactive DVD training on developmental disabilities for law enforcement. There was no funding provided, but when the legislation passed we got a grant from Homeland Security to pay to create the training. This DVD was provided to all law enforcement precincts in Washington State and used at the training academy at the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) in Burien, WA.
In 2016, Representative Gina McCabe introduced the Travis Alert, named for Travis King, a young autistic boy in Yakima, WA whose parents are first responders. In 2017, the bill became law and will create training about developmental disabilities for all first responders and prepare the Enhanced 911 system to allow individuals or family members to provide critical information regarding a person with disabilities to the 911 system for when that person has an emergency at home or in their car.
When I started this journey, I had no idea how the legislative process worked, I was winging it. Senator Regala listened to my concerns based on my experience and the fact that law enforcement only had 4 hours of training on disabilities and it was very generic. She had Senate staff write the bill and I just showed up to testify at the hearings. You don't have to have experience, you just need to share your story. My story mattered! Change was made because I showed up!
Diana Stadden - mom of a 24 year old son with autism