Autism Training Offered to Over 100 First Responders in Local Workshop


Pictured left to right: Lieutenant Jimmy Donohoe, Laurie Cramer, Captain William Cannata Jr.


On October 17th, law enforcement, first responders and criminal justice personnel from the Greater Akron region were offered a unique opportunity for comprehensive training in working with individuals living with autism.

The workshop and lunch, hosted by the Autism Society of Greater Akron, was held on Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic Akron General Health and Wellness Center in Akron. Over 100 attendees learned how to communicate with people living with ASD during emergency situations and how specific incidents should be handled.

Captain William Cannata Jr. and Lieutenant Jimmy Donohoe, national experts in law enforcement interaction with autism, were featured presenters at the event. Lt. Donohoe, of the Pensacola (FL) Police Dept., is known throughout the law enforcement community as the creator of the “Take Me Home Program”, a database for people living with autism or other communication/cognitive disorders who may have difficulty communicating their name and where they live in an emergency situation. Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh and Sheriff Steve Barry offer the Take Me Home program in Summit County. Cannata Jr. is the Program Director of the Autism and Law Enforcement Education Coalition (ALEC). Both are parents of young men living with autism.

“People living with Autism Spectrum Disorder are seven times more likely to have a 911 encounter than a neurotypical person,” said Laurie Cramer, Executive Director of the Autism Society of Greater Akron. “Furthermore, the prevalence of ASD diagnoses has recently increased to one in 59 children according to the CDC, making it more important than ever that law enforcement and first responders have the ability to identify and respond to people living with autism in our communities.”

“We would like to thank the Akron General Employees Foundation, along with Summit and Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities, who helped make this training possible with grant dollars,” added Cramer.

Representatives from the following departments and organizations attended the event: Adult Parole Authority, Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron Fire Dept., American Medical Response, Brunswick Division of Police, Brunswick Hills Police, Campbell Police Dept., Canton Police Dept., Community Emergency Response Team Medina, City of Fairlawn Fire Dept., City of Massillon Fire Dept., Cleveland Police Dept., Copley Township Fire Dept., Cuyahoga Falls Police Dept., Eastlake Fire Dept., Elite Security Consultants, Fairlawn Fire Dept., Garrettsville Police Dept., Lakemore Police Dept., Marlboro Fire Dept., Medina County Juvenile Detention Center, Montville Police Dept., Multi County Juvenile Attention System, Norton Fire Division, Perry Joint Fire District, Perry Township Fire Dept., PLCC Fire Academy, Solon Fire Dept., Solon Fire Rescue, Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, Summit County Sheriff's Office, Summit Metro Parks, The Children's Center of Medina County, Wooster Division of Fire, and Brecksville Police Dept.

Additional training sessions were held by Autism Society chapters in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati throughout the week.