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Safety and Communication for Individuals with Autism

April is World Autism Month! For individuals with autism, it is important to learn how to communicate with first responders and to learn the vocabulary and language needed to communicate in emergencies. It is equally important that first responders learn strategies for communicating with individuals with autism in emergency situations and for them to be alert and attentive to those who may be autistic. This week’s blog post discusses strategies for addressing safety for individuals with autism as well as a feature from a guest blogger, Jessica Smith, a high school senior who shares her story and passion for AAC including her experience creating communication boards for first responders.

April is World Autism Month! Discussing communication related to safety is important for individuals with autism. Autism safety communication can refer to a variety of strategies and techniques that are used to ensure the safety of individuals with autism. Here are some key considerations:

  • Clear and consistent communication: Individuals with autism may have difficulty processing and understanding verbal communication, so it is important to use clear and concise language. It can also be helpful to use visual aids, such as pictures or written instructions, to reinforce verbal instructions.

  • Sensory considerations: People with autism may be hypersensitive to certain sensory stimuli, such as loud noises or bright lights. Caregivers and family members can help to create a safe environment by minimizing these triggers and providing sensory-friendly spaces as needed.

  • Social communication: Individuals with autism may struggle with social communication and understanding social cues, which can put them at risk in certain situations. It is important to provide clear guidelines for social interactions and to monitor social situations to ensure the safety of the individual.

  • Safety training: Individuals with autism may require specialized safety training, such as instruction on how to navigate busy streets or how to interact with strangers. Caregivers and family members can work with professionals to develop personalized safety plans for individuals with autism.

  • Emergency planning: It is important to have emergency plans in place for individuals with autism in case of natural disasters, fires, or other emergencies. These plans should be tailored to the individual's specific needs and communication style.

Overall, effective autism safety communication requires a combination of clear and consistent communication, sensory considerations, social communication guidelines, safety training, and emergency planning.

This week's guest blog post is from Jessica Smith, a high school senior, who shares her story

and her passion for AAC. Read her blog post below!

My name is Jessica, but most people call me the queen of AAC. AAC stands for Augmentative Alternative Communication. AAC is for communication. It can be used in different forms. One part is called low tech AAC. Low tech is known for being less complicated and cost effective. Low tech is also something you could put together at home and if you know what you are doing it could be easy to put together. The next major part of AAC is high tech. Examples of high tech would be a talker. Talkers are tablets that have symbols and you would put them together to communicate what you need. It works by pressing the icons on the screen and the tablets application will read what you selected. Learn what ways work for you and your user and learn what works best!

Now that you have a better understanding, let me tell you what I do! I am a high schooler with Asperger's Syndrome. I live around Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania. I use Boardmaker to make communication boards for first responders. I started this in 2017 when I was looking for Boardmaker symbols. I had always had an interest for the symbols because when I was in elementary school I saw the kids using the symbols and it always caught my attention. Anyways, I came across a website talking about how police don’t always understand how to help people with Autism. That day I made some communication boards for communicating with the police. Unfortunately, I did not show them to the police for about a year, but when I showed them they absolutely loved them. Ever since that day, I have been sharing them with the police. Even some police departments on the show On Patrol have my communication boards. One of the police departments that has my board is Richland County Sheriffs Office. I have got a lot of great feedback from them! Most police departments use them with people that are really afraid to talk to the police and people that are non verbal. If you or anyone you know are nonverbal, I highly recommend looking into AAC. It is a resource that could help improve your life!

Frequently Asked Questions:

What kind of symbols and messages do you include on the boards?

  • The most common symbols I use are help, hurt, yes and no. I also use symbol phrases like, “it’s too loud” and “call my guardians”.

Why are these messages important for individuals with communication difficulties to have

access to when interacting with the police?

  • The police do not always understand that people with disabilities may have a hard time communicating. It may be easier to use a communication board or talker compared to writing things down.

Where can individuals access your boards?

  • My ideas and boards are posted on my Instagram.

Do you have any recommendations for emergency personnel when they are communicating

with individuals with Autism?

  • My recommendation is to talk to them quietly and use simple, short phrases. Emergency personnel should keep calm and work with the individual if they become overstimulated.

If you would like to get your local emergency personnel trained on autism, please visit:

Biography: Jessica Smith is a senior in high school in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. She has over 5 years of experience with AAC and AT. Her goal is to help everyone be able to communicate their wants and needs without any difficulty. Jessica is extremely passionate about assistive technology!

Check her out on social media!

  • Instagram: stickfortsd1

  • TikTok: jess17347

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