Autism and Firefighting
Howdy, I have a few questions about Autism and Firefighting. I want to be a firefighter, but I have Aspergers (a functioning form of low-spectrum autism). I'm relatively normal, but I do some things a little differently (I don't make eye contact, I'm a little OCD, sometimes have difficulty following an order unless it's logically explained, etc).
I really want to be a firefighter so I'm trying to find ways to work around some of these differences.
A major question I have is should I tell the department that I have Aspergers/Autism? In some ways, my condition is a huge benefit .I can hear things other people can't, I think differently and 'outside the box', I'm slightly OCD so I like to do a good job whenever I do a task, and when things get busy I become insanely focused on the task at hand. I just don't want the department thinking I'll freak out on them randomly or something like that.
sounds like you should do volunteer dept, to see, but not sure if Fla. has much volunteer or if in your area.
The other thing to try is go through a fire academy or ff cert and see how you do, than judge from that.
I'm planning on moving to California next year so I'm holding off on the certifications.
Originally Posted by fire49
florida, california not sure if there are any harder states to get hired in competition!!
Apply for one of the many FF1 academies in CA and see how it works out.
There are exercises to develop the part of your brain where your OCD stems from. You can consult a Dr. Once you develop that part of your brain you will be able to not focus so much on that one nagging thing in the back of your head, and let things go. A lot of stress from social interactions can come from that part of the brain as well. Once learned (it takes about a year) you may be able to focus on what you want and not feel as socially awkward. A family member is going through the same thing.
This is if you are thinking long term and not a quick fix.
Originally Posted by STACEFIVE
My 9-year old son has been diagnosed with precisely what you have, however with a splash of non-verbal Tourette's thrown in for good measure. I have done a lot of research and educated myself thouroughly about the condition, and to be quite honest with you I would be skeptical to want to work with you, knowing that your actions (or lack thereof) could endanger myself or my crew. I would constantly be wondering if I would have to be babysitting you. There is no time for that on a fireground, which is a very dynamic situation, and constantly changing. You are very well aware of the fact that one thing Asby people do not like and that is CHANGE. My son's world turns upside down for 1/2 school days or snow days......Weekends are a challenge as well. We wont even get into summers. But thats for him as a child, I dont have experience with adults but knowing what I know.......Things change on a fireground as fast as lightning and I would be wondering if you had the ability to improvise, adapt and overcome without having to be told what to do.......
Sorry to be brutally honest but there is no room for sugarcoating in this business.
EDIT: PERFECT EXAMPLE: While I was typing this- his mother sent him upstairs to gather his dirty laundry. He came down 10 minutes later empty-handed and when asked where his dirty laundry was, he replied "Oh I forgot what I was doing and watched TV instead." This is an every-day occurrance.
Originally Posted by FWDbuff
In regards to change, I sometimes don't like change but I can adapt to it. If someone shows me a more efficient way to complete a task, I don't have a problem with it. The only time I don't like change (but can adapt) is if someone tells me to complete a task in such a manner that slows productivity down.
For example, I currently work in fast food to pay the bills and college. If there's a new way to clean the lobby that can get it done in half the time, I don't have a problem with it. But if my manager tells me to clean the entire lobby with a small handbrush instead of a broom, I can still do it, but I seriously consider the logic of it.
And truthfully, at my job I'm pretty much a take-charge kind of guy. When things get busy, I can get insanely focused and manage to multi-task more than any of my coworkers.
This is all fine and dandy. But let's say that I, as a Company Officer, order you to advance a handline up a stairway and locate/confine/extinguish a body of fire. You see fire blowing out of a particular window on a second floor, but for some reason you are unable to advance the line up the stairs- locked doors, or some other stupid reason, it doesn't matter, point is that you cannot advance the line up those stairs. You cannot find me to ask what to do. As your Company Officer, I expect my last, previous order to be carried out- if you can't do it in the manner in which I initially prescribed, I still expect the order to be carried out, and if you have to improvise-adapt-and overcome to do it, so be it, just get it done.
Originally Posted by Wolfn
So lets continue- you need to get water onto that fire from the interior but the stairs are blocked. What do you do?? The truckies have raised a ground ladder to the second floor a few windows down from where the fire is......Are you able to comprehend that you can advance that handline over that ground ladder and get water onto the fire? Or how about that exterior stairway leading to the deck? You could take the line up those stairs and through the doorway......Or is your Aspergers/Autism tunnelvision causing you to go into vapor lock and making you say "he told me up the interior stairs? I cant do it, what do I do now?" over and over and over again until someone finds you and brings you out of your vapor lock.....by which time the fire has extended beyond where it was initially???
Sorry kid, this isn't cleaning the lobby in a fast-food joint. This is real honest-to-goodness life or death. And this is coming from the Parent of an Aspy/High-Functioning Autistic kid.
I commend you for deciding on your dream and following your passion. I am all for giving people a chance. Having said that, some of the things you have described give me cause for concern. You mentioned that you need to have things logically explained to you. Unfortunately, as FWDBuff has explained, we often do not have that luxury on the fire ground. Firefighters pride themselves on being able to adapt and overcome.
His advice as an officer and having a child with a similar condition really makes him a valuable resource.
There are other fire service related jobs. You may consider fire prevention, code enforcement or dispatching.
I sincerely wish the best of luck to you,
A number of people have raised various issues and concerns in this thread, all of which are valid concerns and should be taken seriously. However, autism/Aspergers is a complex and diverse condition, and the ability of individuals varies dramatically. Emergency service personnel are among those on the autism spectrum.
However, you are likely to face some extra, unexpected challenges, and if you are to become a firefighter, you may have to work on those issues. It may also be that firefighting is not for you, because your traits make you unsuitable for this career - unfortunately, there may be no way of knowing until you try. However, keep in mind that whenever you are on the fireground, lives are in your hands - the public and your crew, and you need to ensure that you're not going to endanger any of those lives. Autism can be a double edged sword. Yes, there's often challenges which could be an issue on the fireground, but there are also potentially some unique strengths. It's impossible, without knowing you, how these would play out on the fireground, and how well you'd integrate into a fire crew. There's also the matter of local firefighting culture. I'm in Australia, where the culture is quite different to that in the US.
I would certainly consider volunteer service to get some hands on experience. This may highlight any unexpected challenges and give you areas to work on, it may show you that you're not suited to firefighting, or it may confirm that firefighting is a good career move.
I was reading your question, and the disparaging replies. I wanted to let you know it is possible for someone with Aspergers/Autism to become a Firefighter. Here is a little history about me. I am nineteen, A diagnosed High Functioning Autistic, A Christian, and I am also Married. I hold a day job as a computer technician, and the rest of the time I am a Volunteer Firefighter, and Husband. I currently hold the status of recruit/probationary Firefighter at my department. I am working on obtaining my FF1, and when available again in my area EMT.
Here are some reasons why we make great Firefighters and what we add to the Fire ground.
* We are logic based individuals, which allows us to think about the situation in depth and rapidly come to a conclusion on the fire-ground. Which is a major advantage when we have videos of whole teams going in and over-ventilating, a ventilation limited fire. The average firefighter is becoming outdone by robots, and the only way to cancel this out is make smarter more effective Firefighters. Every fire ground is a chess game, sometimes we just need to redefine the moves.
*We are very task oriented. When told to get something done, we will get it done.The comment that mentioned advance the stairway is a perfect example of how we would find fire, fight fire, and put fire out if given the order to do so. If a door was closed and we needed to find another way around that door, we would already have a dozen alternatives in mind.
*We are hyper-sensitive to our surroundings, this allows us to always be observant to what is occurring. We take the time to notice the small things that make a big picture. We have Superior memory to an Neuro-Typical. When people brag about having picture memory, we have the video, smells, feelings, and sounds of that recorded in our memory. This allows us to observe our situation and provide important feedback to command. This also comes out great on after action reports, as we are sensitive to the detail we put into something.
*We have a higher tolerance for physical pain and strain. This adds to our over all endurance, allowing us to get the job done even when it hurts. Keep working until the task at hand has been completed.
*We are not prone to giving into fear. In my own personal experience I have never been afraid of the flames. I have had them surround me entirely in my gear, and all I could feel was amazement. It was intriguing to watch, and feel the heat around me. Then again what do I have to fear? My death was already paid for.
However all of this does depend on the person and the extent of their disabilities. While the majority of High Functioning Autistics are only socially affected, some are unable to perform the most basic tasks.It is very possible for you to become a successful Firefighter. Do not take someones word who is only judging on the mental capacity of an 11 year old (Then again I don’t know of many Neuro-typical children who are going to do their laundry,take out the trash, walk the dog, and or any other chores with out being asked multiple times by their guardians). We have the capacity and abilities that in many cases outdo by far our counterparts in the human race simply by how we process information. We do not show emotion or communicate in the same ways as others, however our compassion, and dedication can make us at the very least equivalent assets.