Our Responsibility to Those with Special Needs

Running a patient who has special needs is not a matter of “if” but “when.” Ignoring the problem creates anxiety for the responder, tension for the patient, and frustration for others on scene including family members and care givers. Ultimately, this could result in poor patient care or undesirable citizen service. A responder who is in this situation may have the best intentions but may not be aware that his or her actions are having an adverse impact on the community.

As emergency responders, one of the things that cause us to feel uncomfortable is dealing with the unknown. This is the reason that we train. The “routine” call becomes more familiar when we discuss the problem before the incident. We educate ourselves and practice, and then we review our performance to see how we can do better the next time.

The best way to prepare for this type of emergency is the same way you would prepare for any emergency: to educate yourself and others you respond with, and to train for the potential. It is often beneficial to include other people such as social workers, teachers, doctors and nurses, or therapists in your training sessions. You may also be able to find parent or caregivers who would be willing to talk or participate in your training sessions. Not only do these people work on a daily basis with individuals with special needs, but it will develop a network of resources that you can call upon in the future.

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Comment by Dustin on June 5, 2009 at 5:16pm
Ironically my dept had an MCI with a school bus of special needs kids this morning. It was difficult seeing the majority of my crews not being able to understand the type of care as mentioned in the article above. Fortunately, enough of us were there and knew what to do and we got every one of them out and transported safely. This is a great article and I will be sharing it with my department!
Comment by Daniele on June 5, 2009 at 1:46pm
My full time job is in a group home with those who have special needs. If at all possible talk to them about whats going on to make them feel okay with you and that you don't single them out. Don't be scared of them and don't stare! LOL Nothing bugs me more than that. Be sure how ever to verify the information the patient gives you with a caregiver! Some of our residents are NOTORIOUS for faking things, and exagerating a situation. We had one who faked a seizure so well she had all of US fooled and the medics who transported her. They got her to ER and she started laughing and confessed to the whole thing! Nough rambling, point is, just treat them like their human beings and the respect will be returned. These guys are MUCH smarter than they are given credit for. I love working with em!!! They are all very unique individuals, and have MUCH to offer.
Comment by DUST on June 5, 2009 at 9:14am
Check out http://www.mfri.org/ for a good video made by the Baltimore FD about responding to people with disabilities.

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