Welcome From CEO

IMG_8261Hi, I’m Justin Lewis . . . firefighter + dad to an amazing 8-year old boy with autism, named Jack.

You may know someone raising a child with autism, or, like me, you may be the parent of one . . . but did you know there are hidden dangers for autistic children, literally lurking right in your backyard? Chances are, these are just under your radar.

For a child like Jack, there’s about a 50% chance he’ll try to wander away from a safe environment–like his own home. Even scarier: Between 2009 and 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% of deaths reported in children with autism. And these statistics come straight from the National Autism Association.

Imagine how a simple pool fence could save the life of a child like Jack…

Or specialized autism training for firefighters and other professionals–another potent remedy, when you consider that half of all families with autistic children who wander, report never receiving advice from a professional. Unfortunately, most first responders haven’t been trained to properly serve children with special needs.

That’s why I founded Firefighters vs. Autism — an organization whose mission it is to end wandering related drownings and childhood deaths in the autism community.

With the help of good people like yourself, we pay for rescue swim lessons, pool fences, autism awareness training for first responders, equine therapy, and autism service dogs–all of which save lives of children with autism. Whether you’re the parent of a child with autism, know someone who is, or you’re a concerned citizen uncomfortable with the sobering statistics I’ve just shared, we need your help.

Please support us by making a contribution today; you can also order products from our online store, or sign up for helpful email updates from us. Thanks for stopping by and helping us save the lives of children with autism.

First Responders Fighting for Children with Special Needs

Firefighters vs. Autism was organized exclusively to educate the community about the dangers of wandering and drowning that are prevalent among those within the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We are firefighters, family members and friends who are primarily engaged in educating first responders, the community, as well as the parents of children with Autism, for the purpose of preventing wandering and drowning among individuals with ASD.  Our primary purpose is to provide workshops for first responders in order to educate them on the dangers of wandering and drowning as well as to provide opportunities for families, friends and/or caregivers to learn about what they can do to prevent these tragedies from happening.  Firefighters vs Autism provides information to the community in general on the dangers that individuals with Autism could face.

Through various fund raising events and merchandise sales, we are able to host workshops for first responders and care givers, provide swim lesson and drowning awareness opportunities to families impacted by Autism, pool fencing to families who cannot otherwise afford it, and community wandering awareness seminars as well as therapy events for those effected by Autism. We also provide education and/or counseling for those families dealing with an individual with Autism.

We are currently operating out of Tucson and southern Arizona but hope to expand into other communities across the nation. We also plan on donating to other 501C3’s that share in our organizations mission.

How Aware Are You?

Mortality

In 2008, while Danish researchers were doing mortality risk assessments they found the risk to those with autism is twice as high as the general population; and a California research team in 2001 found an elevated death rate in autism related to several causes – including seizures, accidents, suffocation and drowning.

Source – National Autism Association

Isolation/Restraint

It’s estimated that over the last five years, more than 20 students, many with disabilities, have died due to seclusion and restraints being used in schools.  Dangers include: Death by asphyxiation; Bodily injury; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Heart, gastrointestinal and pulmonary complications; Decreased appetite and malnutrition; Dehydration; Urinary tract infections; Incontinence; Agitation; Depression/withdrawal; Loss of dignity; Sleeping problems; Humiliation; Anxiety; Increased phobias; Increased aggression, including SIB (self-injurious behavior)

Source: United States Government Accountability Office, Selected Cases of Death and Abuse at Public and Private Schools and Treatment Center (2009)

Wandering/Drowning

Roughly half, or 48%, of children with Autism attempt to leave from a safe environment, a rate nearly 4 times higher than their unaffected siblings.  In 2009, 2010, and 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with Autism ages 14 and younger after wandering.
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Source: Interactive Autism Network Research Report: Elopement and Wandering (2011)

Bullying

65% of parents reported that their children with Asperger’s syndrome had been victimized by peers in some way within the past year.
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Source: Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing (2009)