Our Mission & Programs
Pathfinders for Autism works to support and improve the lives of individuals affected by autism through expansive, customized programming, and by providing resources, training, information and activities free of charge.
The Pathfinders for Autism Resource Center
The Pathfinders for Autism Resource Center is the cornerstone of our efforts to serve Maryland’s families by:
- providing timely, accurate autism-specific information and resources
- responding personally to inquiries via telephone, email and Facebook
- distributing monthly “PFA Tips” articles on a variety of topics.
The Pathfinders for Autism Resource Center helps families navigate the often confusing and complex array of services, treatment, and programs available to them. Our staff receives calls from parents who have just received a diagnosis; caregivers of adults with autism in need of support services; individuals with autism who are seeking services for themselves; and professionals working with clients with autism.
The Pathfinders for Autism website is a critical link to the thousands of families and professionals we serve throughout Maryland. The site offers a searchable, online database of more than 2,200 providers along with informative articles and a calendar of autism-specific events.
Training Parents and Professionals
Pathfinders for Autism sponsors workshops around the state featuring experts in the field presenting on a variety of relevant topics such as: vocational rehabilitation, behavioral interventions, special education, financial planning, dietary interventions, sensory processing, and more. PFA also supports training opportunities hosted by other organizations through sponsorships, such as Honestly Autism Day in Baltimore County.
Pathfinders for Autism hosts free recreational events at local attractions, such as the National Aquarium and Minor League Baseball games. This provides an opportunity for the entire family to experience a “typical” outing with others who are sensitive to their situation, without some of the common barriers many families experience on a daily basis. Pathfinders provides informative fact sheets to the venue to share with their staff and will provide sensitivity training to ensure the staff are fully prepared so that the visit goes as smoothly as possible. PFA also supports recreational opportunities hosted by other organizations through sponsorships, such as the annual Surfers Healing Camp in Ocean City.
First Responder Training: Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, and Emergency Room
This training provides first responders with “scenario-based” instruction with practical application in the field. Pathfinders provides a balance of factual information, experiential exercises, and practical tips and strategies, along with personal stories that both entertain and provoke thoughtful consideration. Our curriculum focuses on functional ability (rather than specific diagnosis) that incorporates the most prominent developmental disabilities first responders may encounter. The program addresses how to identify disabilities and their characteristics and make modifications and accommodations. We also help first responders identify behaviors which could easily be mistaken as belligerence or acts of aggression. We have different curricula specific for each audience: Patrol Officers, Corrections Officers, Fire/EMS, Investigators/Detectives, Interrogators, Hostage Negotiators, Child Advocacy Centers, SROs, Parole & Probation Officers, Dispatchers, and State’s Attorneys/Public Defenders.
The curriculum development teams consist of IDD experts, advocates, and former/active police, fire, EMS and ER doctors and nurses. The law enforcement curriculum is certified by the Maryland Police and Corrections Training Commission (MPCTC) for police entry-level and in-service, and corrections entry-level and in-service. The fire/EMS training offers CEUs. (Click on the brochure for the certification numbers.)
Driver Safety Program – What To Do During a Traffic Stop
This is a program consisting of a webinar, presented by police officers and PFA staff which details the rules one should follow during a traffic stop, traffic stop toolkits, and when available, practice sessions with mock traffic stops.
BE SAFE is an interactive training for individuals 13 years old and up with Autism and other Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities. It uses video modeling and role playing to show viewers how to interact with the police in everyday encounters. Crucial safety skills are clearly demonstrated through an interactive movie. Topics range from following instructions to the right to remain silent. In each scene, real police interact with special needs individuals, giving BE SAFE true authenticity.
BE SAFE is a great way for teens and adults of all abilities to learn what to do and say when meeting the police. The session requires active participation by the attendee in the form of watching a video, discussing the video (all modes of communication are welcome), and engaging in activities that reinforce the lesson.
In 2014, Pathfinders for Autism sponsored a BE SAFE certification workshop, training 50 participants from all regions of the state. To find a Be Safe Certified instructor near you contact Shelly McLaughlin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the BE SAFE THE MOVIE website for more information.
Awareness & Outreach
Promoting public awareness and understanding about autism and its effect on individuals, families, and society through media campaigns; presentations to local schools, civic groups and businesses; promoting the use of standardized developmental screening tools to pediatricians; and community events.
Pathfinders for Autism serves as a catalyst to influence public policy decision makers and service providers to ensure that high-quality services and programs are available to individuals with autism throughout their lives.
Join our Mailing list to learn about resources, trainings, and awareness and family events in your area.