Local autism therapy center hosts MCSO, CPD for first responder day


COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)– Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers has partnered with local law officials to celebrate Autism Awareness, Acceptance, and Advocacy Month and develop critical relationships between the children with autism and local first responders to best prepare for potential emergency situations.

This is the first Responder Day being held at the center, Columbus’ Clinic Manager, Bernard Postell, explains the importance of this event.

“We’re having this, this month because of Autism Awareness Month. Hopebridge has redefined Autism Awareness Month for A4. So it will be Autism Awareness, Acceptance, and Advocacy Month. We do that because one in 44 kids will be diagnosed with autism, so we just want to make sure that the community knows that Hopebridge is here to provide intensive therapy for our kids age 18 months to 12-years-old,” he says.

Postell also says he wants to make First Responder Day an annual, or bi-annual event to ensure all children of the clinic will get the opportunity to interact with law officials.

“We plan to do this annually and maybe even this type of event, do it bi-annually so that all of our kids get the opportunity to experience our first responders and get to know them, interact with them. So in case something happens, they are aware of them and be able to adapt to them as well,” he says.

Board certified behavioral analyst at Columbus’ Hopebridge center, Shakeja Gaffney, says this is a learning experience for both the children and first responders.

“One of the things is we want to allow our youth that are, getting seen, getting services by us, we want them to be able to have an inclusive experience so that they can experience the same thing that their peers are experiencing,” she says. “With law enforcement, they have the opportunity to see the different forms that the diagnosis comes in because autism isn’t a cookie-cutter diagnosis and looks different. So it also gives them an opportunity to interact, and also kind of see how we are interacting with them just to kind of help them out if they ever do have to go out somewhere where there are kids that have autism, that they have an idea of ways to interact with them to kind of help the experience be less intense,” Gaffney explains.

The Muscogee County Sheriff’ Office and the Columbus Police Department attended the event. Children were able to enjoy Kona Ice while touring the vehicles, watching the lights, and meeting first responders.


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