My wife Nancy and I launched Autism Safety Education & Training in 2012 to enable us to continue a mission I started over 12 years ago to educate law enforcement and other first responders on protecting and safely interacting with persons on the autism spectrum and other developmental disabilities. What started as an effort to provide some basic training to police in Maine back in 2004, has become a much broader effort to educate other first responders, such as firefighters, EMT’s, dispatchers, correctional officers, search and rescue units, school personnel, the judicial system and other community partners. The Autism Society of Maine was the driving force behind the original training program, which I developed after having the good fortune of attending a training session in 2003, put on by Dennis Debbaudt. Working with the Autism Society of Maine, we were able to develop a program that was approved by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and was made mandatory for all law enforcement officers in the state. Additionally, I became an Instructor and subject matter expert at the academy, and have presented the training to all new classes of recruits since 2007. It has also become a standard part of the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) program led by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), and I have presented a 2 hour block for CIT classes in the state since 2006.
Over these past 12 years, thousands of police officers, firefighters, EMT’s, correctional officers, dispatchers and educators have received the training. As I recently retired from a 25 year career in state and federal law enforcement, my goal is to continue to provide this training here in the state of Maine, but also in other states and/or countries. It is clear, as the number of persons affected by autism spectrum disorders continues to increase at a dramatic rate, the need will become more acute. It is equally clear that, despite the efforts of many dedicated parents and autism advocates, there is much work remaining to be done, and many areas where this training has never been implemented. Nancy and I are excited as we launch this new phase of our lives, and are looking forward to traveling to other states to provide this critical, potentially life-saving training.
Description of Training Program:
The basic program is 2-3 hours, and covers a number of critical topics relating to safety and criminal justice issues, including:
- Definition and explanation of autism and developmental disabilities- incidence, causes and common characteristics, particularly those that impact on safety, such as: sensory and processing issues, lack of eye contact, perseveration and self-stimulatory behavior, social and communication challenges
- Detailed discussion on meltdowns- definition, prevention, recognition and response
- Full coverage of wandering and elopement issues, including trends, recent case discussions, and development of wandering prevention and response plans for family, school and first responders
- Positional Asphyxia- discussion of this critical issue, including recent tragic cases that illustrate the need for all first responders to be aware of this issue
- School safety issues- meltdowns, bullying, wandering and other related safety concerns
- Criminal justice system- discussion of challenges related to criminal cases in which person with ASD is suspect, witness or victim
- Victimization concerns- detailed discussion of trends, and best practices for interviewing victims with ASD
- Fire/rescue- techniques for patient assessment and safely dealing with emergencies involving persons with ASD
- Dispatchers- guidance for taking 911 calls involving emergencies involving persons with ASD, including protocols for questions to ask in wandering and other incidents
- Proactive community programs- detailed discussion of registration programs, and creation of safety awareness programs for first responders, schools and communities
Videos and audio clips are utilized during the presentation to illustrate various important points, and we share our personal experience having a child on the spectrum.
I believe my combination of many years of experience in law enforcement, as well as my experiences as an autism parent, give me the perspective needed to effectively deliver meaningful training, that most importantly, will inspire communities to initiate creative programs to address the very serious issues faced by persons with ASD and other development disabilities.
I am also dedicated to promoting an idea I’ve developed over the years for the creation of Developmental Disability & Autism Response Teams (DART) in local communities, in which specially trained criminal justice professionals (Judges, victim-witness advocates, probation officers, police officers/investigators, prosecutors and defense attorneys), working with professionals in the autism and developmental disability fields, are involved in criminal cases in which persons with ASD and other developmental disabilities are either victims, witnesses or defendants. The goal is to ensure that such persons are treated fairly, compassionately and with patience and understanding, in these difficult and challenging situations.
I want to emphasize that my main goal in dedicating myself to this training, is not just to provide the critical information noted above, but to motivate the communities I visit to work collaboratively to create meaningful programs that will bring together law enforcement and other first responders, and parents, schools and other community members, in efforts to protect persons with ASD and other developmental disabilities. The people I am blessed to meet whenever I conduct these presentations, inspire me with their dedication and devotion, and Nancy and I look forward to visiting your community sometime in the near future.
Matt Brown’s Bio/Training Accomplishments
- Since 2004 – instructor, Maine Criminal Justice Academy
- Information Specialist, Autism Society of Maine, 12 years
- Developed a program to train first responders on identifying and safely interacting with people on the Autism Spectrum with the Autism Society of Maine.
- Instrumental in working with Autism Society of Maine to ensure training was mandated for all Maine law enforcement officers and developed the curriculum
- Testified in court as a subject matter expert
- Assisted numerous departments implement autism registration program
- Provided consultation to detectives investigating crimes against persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Produced training video for federal prosecutors
- Training program featured on Maine Public TV and local NBC affiliate
- Conducted close to 200 training sessions since 2004 throughout the state of Maine and beyond including: Lincoln, Nebraska; Twin Falls, ID; Frenchtown, NJ; Manchester, NH; Atlantic City, NJ; RCMP, New Brunswick, Canada
10+ school districts
State, local and county police agencies
Maine Warden Service
Maine Forest Service
Family Support Services Agencies
Maine State Prison and other county jails
Maine State Dept. of Education Emergency Management Team
Numerous Fire/Rescue/EMS departments/communication centers
Dept. of Homeland Security and Border Patrol and airport screeners
Univ. of Maine system, several campuses
Maine Victim-Witness Advocates
Maine State EMS conference
Maine state 911/dispatch conference
Parents’ support groups throughout the state of Maine
Other related professional accomplishments:
- Instructor for Crisis Intervention Teams throughout the state through the NAMI Maine chapter
- Currently Program Director of Crisis Intervention Team Trainings for NAMI Maine
- 25 years as a sworn law enforcement officer, last 21 yrs. as a United States Probation Officer