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Migyanka Releases Training Film on Autism for Emergency Responders

Joann Migyanka, associate professor in the Department of Special Education and Clinical Services, and her team have just released ACT for Autism: Assess, Communicate and Treat, the second in a series of training videos for hospital emergency department personnel.

Migyanka is principle investigator on the project; Susan Glor-Schieb, professor in Special Education and Clinical Services, is a consultant; and Jeff Fratangeli, acting associate dean for the College of Education and Educational Technology, contributed technical expertise as producer/director.

Migyanka and her team are working to increase preparedness of first responders and emergency department professionals in Pennsylvania and across the nation when working with individuals with autism. Emergencies are frightening events for all of us, and the friendly, calm confidence of a trained professional is always a welcome relief. To individuals with autism, however, the stranger approaching them in a uniform may not be a welcome sight or appear helpful.

The video is designed to promote understanding of the unique needs of individuals with autism and provide guidance in effective treatment in the case of emergencies. Arvind Venkat of Allegheny General Hospital narrates the film and has served as technical consultant addressing the medical personnel perspective of assessment and treatment.

The video was funded by a $40,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Autism and the Western Region ASERT (Autism Services, Education, Research, and Training) Center.

Migyanka (PI), Glor-Schieb (consultant), and Fratangeli (producer/director) produced their first video in the series in 2011. ACT: Assessment and Communication Tactics for Autism was funded by a $26,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and focused on training fire and ambulance service first responders.

The ACT series has received interest among emergency responders across Pennsylvania as well as Maryland, Illinois, California, and Texas who are now using it to train first responders. It is a primary source on the Pennsylvania Bureau of Autism Virtual Training Network.

Migyanka continues to disseminate information about the needs of individuals with autism and to pursue additional external funding for future projects. On March 22, 2013, she spoke to the Regional EMS Conference at Seven Springs, and on April 5 she spoke at the EMS Conference in Erie, Pa. She is scheduled to speak in June at the Pennsylvania Emergency Nurses Association in State College and in July at the Autism Society of America Conference.

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