A guide to interacting with individuals who may have autism spectrum disorder during emergency calls

A guide to interacting with individuals who may have autism spectrum disorder during emergency calls

A person who interacts differently during an emergency call may have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

A person with ASD may:

  • Not be able to understand danger or identify a true emergency
  • Be unfamiliar with common safety rules and expectations
  • Have trouble handling disorderly disruptive situations
  • Have difficulty understanding questions or instructions
  • Get confused by figures of speech
  • Be easily distracted or upset by noises or other sensory input
  • Not be able to respond quickly or accurately
  • Repeat words or phrases and/or speak out of context (may seem as rude)
  • Become anxious or withdrawn
  • Be more interested in physical environment rather than people
  • Not understand the consequences of actions
  • Act unexpectedly or compulsively
  • Not understand or acknowledge pain

During a 911 call, if you suspect that a person may have ASD:

  • Use short, simple sentences
  • Ask straightforward questions to help identify the real danger(s)
  • Clarify the person’s understanding each time an instruction is given
  • Don’t speak too forcefully or loudly
  • Avoid using slang, sarcasm, or complex language
  • Try to keep the conversation on topic
  • Pause in between statements to allow for processing (allow sufficient time for responses)
  • Respect the person at all times, no matter how he or she may respond

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