Quick Guide for Emergency Services First Responders

for Persons with Autism and Related Disorders



grey pause button

 When things are already escalated:

  1. Pause – quietly observe
  2. Stay calm – use few words, simple and supportive: ‘We can figure this out’.
  3. Wait – allow time for the person to settle down; don’t touch if not needed.
  4. Empathize – try to nearly but not fully match the person’s level of concern
  5. Offer food, water, rest, movement.

Before things have escalated or once things are settling down:

(adapted from Rady Childrens Hospital ‘Code Grey’)


  • Use simple language
  • Give one-step directions when possible
  • Allow time for processing questions or instructions
  • Use visual schedules, either pictures or written
  • Provide a ‘2 minute’ warning prior to changes or transitions
  • Provide ongoing calm reassurance: ‘It’s ok. We can figure this out.’
  • Incorporate preferred or familiar items or activities
  • Use visually interesting distractions during procedures (e.g. bubbles)
  • Allow opportunities for movement (walks, jumping, etc.)