The entire Division of Streets & Roads – all 73 employees – are a little smarter now than they were when they came to work this morning and better able to serve the public.
The employees went through an autism awareness training class for first responders conducted by The Autism Society of the Bluegrass.
“The training was designed to give us a greater awareness of autism and how best to handle situations involving people with autism,” says Rob Allen, Streets & Road’s new director.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 1 in 59 children is being diagnosed with some form of autism today, such training is becoming more and more important. Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by a range of communication and social challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors like rocking, hand-flapping or obsessions.
“Two young men in my neighborhood are autistic,” Allen says. “Both are non-verbal. How do we tell them we are going to fix the sidewalk, trim a tree, etc?”
Darren Lizer, Equipment Operator Senior, says the training was worthwhile and will help him. “It’s all good information.”
Allen says he hopes his employees will be better able to interact and serve this segment of Lexington’s population. “We talk about inclusivity and I really feel this will help anyone who is a public servant and interacts with the public. It would be cool if enough city employees were trained that we become designated an Autism Friendly Community.”
The Autism Society of the Bluegrass coordinates training for a number of other organizations, including the Lexington Police Department. The group also works with the Police Department to organize autism meet-and-greet events for families and officers, which helped build positive relationships in the community.