The Fire and Medical Department of Mesa, Arizona is now the state’s first fire team to be designated an Autism Certified Center. According to a report this month by Arizona Central.com, the designation was granted by the International Board of Credentialing and Education Standards, after the FMD’s firefighters and first-responders received training in how to help individuals with autism.
According to the IBCCES website, organizations looking to become Autism Certified must be dedicated to serving those on the spectrum, have at least 80% of their staff trained and certified in the field of autism, and must be committed to ongoing autism training.
“If they (fire and medical teams) are responding to an emergency situation or working with an individual that may have a sensory need, they have training that lets them know what that looks like and what they need,” IBCCES President Meredith Tekin said.
Autism is a condition affecting millions of people worldwide, and 1 in 59 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). As such, the need for personnel trained to help those on the spectrum is more crucial than ever. Tekin explained that the autism certification training offers participants insight into the way that a person with autism might experience the world. As a result, professionals who undergo the training have increased sensitivity and understanding of people on the autism spectrum.
In November, Mesa became the nation’s first autism-certified city, a designation it received from IBCCES. The initiative to become autism-certified was launched by Visit Mesa, the city’s destination marketing organization, which was also designated an autism-certified center in 2019.
Michelle Streeter, a spokesperson for Visit Mesa, said it was “truly incredible to see the groundswell of support and commitment to the autism certification initiative here in Mesa.” She added that the city’s fire department recognizes the importance of people with autism to the community,
Daniel Openden, president and CEO of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, shared a similar sentiment about the Mesa Fire Department’s autism training initiative.
“All the things they’re doing to provide education, awareness and support so people with autism are better integrated and accepted in their community is fantastic,” he said.