Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara proposed a bill to establish statewide, annual autism awareness training for officers, firefighters and other first responders.
"What the signs are, what you may encounter when you approach someone with autism. What the do’s and don'ts are, when to get help," said Santabarbara.
The issue is a personal one for Santabarbara, whose son Michael was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old.
Today, there are more than three and a half million Americans living with an autism spectrum disorder.
"The information is really changing quite a bit, we're learning more and more about autism as time goes on," said Santabarbara.
The training was passed as part of this year's final state budget. A companion bill would allow for a first-of-its kind standardized autism ID card.
"My son can't really communicate; he has very limited verbal skills. This card would convey important information and convey it quickly,” said Santabarbara.
Ray Senecal, Schenectady's fire chief, says that in an emergency, an identification card would be a huge help in deescalating an already stressful situation.
"Our experience is to find something familiar to that individual. So if I'm able to learn their name — not verbally because they may not be able to give me their name — but this card says, ‘My name is Johnny.’ Now I use your name, 'John, Johnny,' now we have better communication," said Senecal.
The bill has passed and is awaiting approval from Gov. Cuomo.