Standardized education materials that address the specific needs of those living on the autism spectrum urgently needed October 15, 2018 (Toronto, ON) – Autism Canada announced today it will develop a national education program for Search and Rescue and first responders, designed to reduce the frequency, severity and duration of Search and Rescue (SAR) incidences, and to optimize positive outcomes when elopement occurs. The program will reach SAR and emergency responder personnel, as well as autistic individuals, their families and organizations caring for them. People with autism are a vulnerable population susceptible to increased rates of victimization and accidental injury. Coupled with the increase in prevalence of autism, which is now 1 in 66 children and youth, means that SAR and emergency responders are more likely to encounter these individuals in their work. There needs to be standardized materials and information from a trusted source that is consistent and has a focus on safety prevention and pre-planning. This nationwide program will deliver education and awareness through a continuum of learning opportunities reaching even the remotest communities. The strategies and tools will equip SAR managers and emergency responders to better execute searches; they will educate families and organizations on risk assessment and pre-planning; and enhance the importance of using the acquired knowledge to keep this vulnerable sector safe. The program will be managed by Shanyn Silinski. As Program Manager, Ms. Silinski will be responsible for the development and deployment of the education resources and accompanying training. As a former Captain of a local volunteer fire department and training officer, Ms. Silinski is no stranger to emergency planning and response. She spent a number of years working on a joint research and development project between the Department of Defense and Public Safety as a Senior Advisor heading a national working group with a focus on emergency planning. Her over twenty years in communications and public relations experience will complement her lived experience when developing these education resources and will without a doubt be an asset when engaging stakeholders across the country. This three-year project, Autism Spectrum Disorders: National Safety and Search and Rescue Planis made possible due to a Search and Rescue New Initiatives Fund grant from the department of Public Safety Canada. Autism Canada is proud to partner with Parks Canada on this important initiative and looks forward to breaking down barriers and improving the safety of park visitors. -30- About Autism Canada Autism Canada is the only autism advocacy organization with a national perspective on the issues currently facing those with autism spectrum disorder, their families and other stakeholders. We work collaboratively to share expertise, build consensus and help inform public policy and research. In addition to encouraging the sharing of best practices across provincial and territorial boundaries, Autism Canada actively promotes national dialogue on the most effective strategies for building equitable access to funding and services. To learn more, please visit www.autismcanada.org About Autism Spectrum Disorder Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or autism, is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder causing most individuals to experience communication problems, difficulty with social interactions and a tendency to repeat specific patterns of behaviour. There is also a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests. With an estimated 1 in 66 children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is the most commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental condition.