Puzzle Pieces, AMR partner for autism training

Feb. 7—Owensboro's ambulance provider, AMR, is better preparing EMTs, Advanced EMTs and paramedics for interactions involving people with autism and their families through training courses with Puzzle Pieces.

Amanda Owen, executive director of Puzzle Pieces, said she does a lot of work, personally and professionally, to advocate for people with disabilities in the community.

"Across the United States, you will see many emergency services professionals trying to grasp understanding and knowledge on how to embrace certain situations we don't plan for in life," she said.

Owen said she was "delighted" to be asked to host the training sessions for AMR and other emergency services personnel.

Billy Bratcher, operations supervisor for AMR, said the organization felt there was a need among patients with autism and other intellectual disabilities, prompting him to reach out to Owen.

"We want to also listen better to the families who understand the complexities of autism or intellectual disabilities in their family member," he said.

In 2022, ARM received 64 calls to assist patients who reported autism in their history assessment.

"We have learned that it's helpful to be very patient in caring for individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities," Bratcher said. "We found it takes a slightly different approach. ... We need to slow down a little. We are so used to other emergency calls that require a rapid moving pace, and that approach doesn't always work well in these situations."

Bratcher said AMR is hoping to continue their training partnership with Owen and Puzzle Pieces in the future.

"The training with Puzzle Pieces was excellent and we look forward to learning more about scheduling future trainings," he said. "We regularly offer training opportunities to our staff. National and state regulators require that we have frequent, focused training for our EMTs and paramedics."

AMR have also purchased supplies for Sensory Kits for each of the 14 ambulances, which include ear protection, a doodle pad, a stress ball, fidget marble, fidget spinner and a pop-it device.

"We added a communication chart because not everyone uses verbal communication, as well as sunglasses to help with flashing lights," Bratcher said. "Our staff will have them if they need them to help build relationships and lessen the anxiety associated with riding in an ambulance."

Bratcher said these practices will aid AMR in assisting patients with intellectual disorders, and is helpful training for all patients and has opened their eyes and ears to build trusting relationships with patients and community.

"(We want) to let them know we are just humans that love to help other humans and want to serve our community when they are in a need," he said.