Project Spotlight: Autism Awareness Training for First Responders

June 1, 2020

Did you know that 1 in 66 children have autism? Or that individuals with autism are 7 times more likely to interact with First Responders than other members of the general public? First Responders aren’t commonly trained to know the specific needs of those with autism, however, so Canucks Autism Network (CAN) wanted to create training to help. PathWise Solutions was proud to be part of this innovative project. 

Moving from Face to Face to Online Training

A big challenge for building this elearning course was how to transform an already successful face to face training program developed by CAN into a more widely available, accessible online training course. Timing was also an issue, because the longer it took to build the online version, the higher the risk individuals with autism wouldn't get the best service possible in emergency situations. We wanted to work quickly, while still creating a valuable, clear, thoughtful course for First Responders. 

Creating Interactive, Relevant Content

Video interviews

Working closely with CAN, we decided on an approach that would incorporate the real world experiences and stories of both First Responders and the parents of children with autism. Our video interviews allowed us to gather powerful and direct insights and stories, which we then edited into video clips and used to anchor the structure of the course. 

Scenario challenges

To make the learning come to life, we focused on presenting learners with real-life scenarios or challenges that include three layers of decision making: 

  • identifying possible signs of autistic behaviour
  • researching these behaviors
  • creating a support strategy for how to approach the person in need

Learners have to search for information in the “toolbox” of resources provided in order to solve problems and complete the challenges. This allows learners to engage more deeply with the material, rather than passively having to read information or listen to “talking heads”.

Gamification elements

As each challenge is completed, the learner receives tokens and badges. This allows them to see tangible, fun rewards for their correct decisions and gives them a sense of achievement beyond watching a progress bar move forward.

Canucks Autism Network First Responders course

Incorporating Other Relevant Features 

PathWise custom designed the course and built it to run on multiple devices and platforms, including laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. We were able to include additional features to ensure an engaging, enjoyable experience, such as 

  • Audio narration to guide learners through the course and add depth to the storytelling aspects of the course
  • Drag and drop activities with feedback for paths chosen
  • Type your own journal-type response to questions
  • Printable PDF resource sheets
Growing Interest in the Course
“John and his team are passionate, professional and committed to an outstanding product. We enjoyed working with Pathwise Solutions and would recommend them to anyone looking for support to create high quality online learning tools.” – Stephanie Gull, Canucks Autism Network

Since its launch in January 2019, over 800 First Responders in BC have now taken the course, it has garnered media interest, and has captured the attention of First Responders in other parts of the country too.

Ultimately, the goal of the course is to help all First Responders respond safely and effectively to the unique needs of each person they encounter. As Rob MacMillan – a BCEHS paramedic specialist who serves on the CAN’s First Responder Advisory Committee – explains in this news article, this is a vital skill in emergency situations, even for those already experienced with working or living with people with autism. 

PathWise is incredibly proud of the course we’ve built with CAN and are very happy to have been a part of this fantastic initiative. 

If you’re interested in this topic or the training, you can learn more in this TriCity News article and explore the Canucks Autism Network website