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County to Host Autism Awareness Training for First Responders and Families

Published: 4/30/2019

For More Information Contact:

Colleen Pillus, 845-486-2000

Poughkeepsie … Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro announced the County will again offer its successful Autism Awareness Training for First Responders on May 8th and 9th. Additionally, Dutchess County is expanding training with a session specifically for families with individuals diagnosed with autism to provide families with strategies to prepare them for interactions between first responders and individuals with autism during an emergency. Both trainings will be taught by nationally renowned instructors Bill Cannata and Jimmy Donohue. Registration is required and is available at

“These trainings continue to make important connections that can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency. To date, more than 400 first responders from throughout Dutchess County have been trained and we are proud to add a training for families, this year,” said County Executive Molinaro. “We are very pleased to expand this training, providing new opportunities for families and first responders to learn how to best communicate with each other as well as what to expect in an emergency. We all share in the responsibility of keeping every resident of every ability safe and secure, and these trainings are vital to our commitment to teaching our community to ‘ThinkDIFFERENTLY’ about those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Together we can build relationships, dispel misinformation and stigma, and mitigate potentially dangerous situations.”

First Responder Autism Awareness Training for FAMILIES will be held Wednesday, May 8th from 6-9 p.m. at the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health (DBCH) training room, located at 230 North Road, Poughkeepsie. View the event flyer online. The training will teach families with individuals diagnosed with autism how to:

  • develop strategies to prepare for encounters with first responders;
  • effectively communicate with first responders on behalf of their family member with ASD;
  • build relationships with the first responder community;
  • understand special tactics and rescue techniques used by first responders.

Autism Awareness Training for FIRST RESPONDERS will be held Thursday, May 9th with a choice of two different times/locations.   The first session will be held from 1-4 p.m. at the Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response, located at 392 Creek Road, Poughkeepsie. The second session will be 6-9 p.m. at the DBCH training room, located at 230 North Road, Poughkeepsie. View the event flyer online. These training sessions will teach police, fire fighters, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, and security guards how to:

  • identify the characteristics and behavior of a person with ASD; 
  • effectively communicate with a person with ASD; 
  • respond to an emergency involving a person with ASD; 
  • build relationships with the ASD community; and
  • utilize special tactics, rescue techniques and patient care options.

Register online at

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the fastest-growing neurobiological condition in the world, which means first responders are more likely than ever to encounter a person with ASD during an emergency response. Since autism can impair a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others, these calls can become high risk for both the responder and a person with ASD.

Mr. Cannata, Coordinator of the Autism and Law Enforcement Education Center, is a retired captain from the Westwood, MA Fire Department with more 35 years of experience as a firefighter. The father of a son who lives on the autism spectrum, he has trained firefighters across the country to be better prepared to rescue people with autism in an emergency. Mr. Cannata’s efforts have gained national attention from NBC’s “Today” show and Autism Speaks, among others.

Mr. Donohue, a lieutenant with the Pensacola, FL Police Department, created the “Take Me Home” Program, a database which allows those who are unable to speak or properly identify themselves to police officers to register with a photo, physical description and contact information so first responders can provide special assistance that may be required when contact with a person with autism occurs.

The father of a daughter living on the autism spectrum, County Executive Molinaro established the “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” initiative in 2015 as a call to action for Dutchess County – its residents, civic groups and organizations, businesses and government – to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since then, more than 100 towns, cities and villages have embraced the initiative, passing “ThinkDIFFERENTLY” resolutions and pledging to support those of all abilities. More information about the initiative and community resources, including a calendar of upcoming inclusive events is available on the County’s award-winning website,