London Fire Brigade

Children with autism get firefighting experience

14 September 2010

Young people with autism are working with firefighters to learn about fire safety and boost their confidence.

Two fire stations -  Dagenham (13-17 September)  and Erith (27 September – 1 October) – will be hosting a week long specially adapted Local Intervention Fire Education (LIFE) course for local youngsters. The challenging week will culminate in a passing out parade in front of friends, family and carers.

This is the third year that the London Fire Brigade has run its course for young people with autism. Originally set up to improve community relations and reduce attacks on firefighters by targeting  those who have offended, are at risk of offending or may have been victims of crime, the LIFE programme now works with young people from a wide range of backgrounds.

It is designed to improve motivation, discipline, self-confidence and team building skills, as well as get across fire safety and fire prevention messages. Young people on the course carry out a number of fire brigade related activities, including the use of ladders, breathing apparatus, casualty rescue techniques, hose line practice and problem solving tasks.

London Fire Brigade’s schools team were also on hand to give important information to the youngsters about fire safety.

The Brigade has worked closely with local autistic charities in adapting the LIFE programme for children with autism . The course has the same aims as the mainstream LIFE programme but includes several key changes, including fewer participants; a ‘buddy system’ so each young person has their own trainer and extra training and familiarisation for Brigade staff on the specific needs of the young people.

Chairman of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s Community Safety Committee Cllr Susan Hall said: “The LIFE programme has a fantastic track record of increasing awareness of what the fire service does, while at the same time giving young people a real sense of achievement and having a positive effect on the wider community. Making the course available to young people with autism reinforces our commitment to making our community safety initiatives as inclusive as possible and getting vital fire safety messages out to all Londoners.”

Chris Gillbanks from Dagenham charity  Parents of Austic Children Together added: “We are delighted to once again have the opportunity to work with the London Fire Brigade on the LIFE project. Our young people have gained so much from the course. Autism is a condition which affects communications and social skills which means that many children find it hard to access mainstream activities.  This week has given them much more confidence and increased their self esteem.  I would like to thank everyone involved for giving their time to support to the project.”