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Dr. Lynn H. Elliott
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13 Aug 2019, 4:31 pm

My grandson has autism. He is going to college at the moment and taking courses in fire safety. He functions well except his social skills are lacking. I'm concerned about the dangers of this career choice. His parents don't seem to have much involvement. I fear he's floundering without adequate guidance. Suggestions?

jimmy m

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Joined: 30 Jun 2018
Age: 70
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13 Aug 2019, 7:11 pm

What kind of career field is he interested in?

Careers in fire safety can include firefighter, fire inspector, fire investigator, forest fire inspector, forest fire prevention specialist and fire prevention and protection engineer.

A College Degree in Fire Science can lead to:
* Firefighters respond to emergency calls of all types, including car crashes, building fires, and emergency rescue operations. Their primary responsibility is to fight fires, but they are often called to assist with other emergency issues as well. They must have skills in both firefighting and emergency medical training.

* A forest fire inspector and prevention specialist is a special kind of firefighter who works in national forests and parks. They watch for fires from their watchtower and call in any sightings to the main station. These professionals fight fires in national parks and forests using a variety of methods.

* Fire inspectors are responsible for examining the interior and exterior of buildings and structures for fire hazards. They ensure that fire codes are followed, and discuss with the builders or owners any changes that need to be made. Fire inspectors are also responsible for collecting fees for building licenses and permits. Fire inspectors test equipment, such as fire extinguishers, and ensure that it is working properly. If the changes are not made, the fire inspector may issue a citation. If the problems listed on the citation are not brought up to code, legal action can be taken against the building owner or developer.

* Fire investigators work at the scene of a fire that is thought to be arson-related or caused by criminal negligence. The investigator's primary responsibility is to determine both the cause and origin of the fire. To do this, fire investigators take photos of the scene, examine the site of the fire, and collect evidence. They interview witnesses and the owner of the building or home that has caught fire. Aside from duties at the scene of a fire, a fire investigator is responsible for reporting any information obtained at the scene. Fire investigators can arrest suspects and carry out warrants. If the case is brought to trial, the fire investigator may be called to testify.

Not all these professions are dangerous.

Pileated woodpecker
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13 Aug 2019, 7:25 pm

It's a valid concern. I see my floundering in college as indicative of a diagnosis I am considering (20 yrs later). I missed classes, had anxiety attacks about homework, missed exams, dropped out of courses if the professors were any bit antagonistic. Still, I did get through it --- reactively, it took a semester break and summer classes to reduce my Fall/Spring course loads, a medicinal mistake (made me manic) and correction (mood stabilizer). I could get top class grade, or I could get low class grade depending on stress. My confidence took a pretty bad hit from the experience.

Fast forward and I have a neighbor who's diagnosed and she is being proactive about reducing her stress and seems to be doing very well.

Wishing your grandson figures out what works for him and better yet helps him thrive.


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Joined: 21 Jun 2018
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13 Aug 2019, 7:35 pm

A common characteristic for many autistics is "not being able to see the forest for the trees". This isn't necessarily a disadvantage because it means the ability to hyper-focus on something. That can be advantageous in many lines of work.

However, any line of work that can literally involve life or death and requires a person to be aware of all aspects of their environment could, in my opinion, be more perilous for an autistic person that a neurotypical person. I would assume a firefighter must be hyper-aware of everything around them at every given moment to the best of their ability.

I sustained permanent damage to two of my fingers in a piece of heavy equipment that I needed to adjust. This was because I was so focused on the top of the unit and trying to pull it to position it correctly that I was oblivious to the bottom portion of the unit where my other hand was. The unit finally rotated and with gravity swung together crushing two of my fingers so severely that I was assuming they would need to be removed at the hospital. This happened because I was hyper-focused on one thing and not aware of the "big picture".

I'm not saying that I don't believe autistics can be firefighters; I don't know enough about firefighting and I'm just speculating. However, speaking only for myself, I know that I can't make fast decisions in high stress situations where there is large amount of sensory stimulation (e.g. loud, bright, dangerous, fast, etc).

"There is no love of living without despair of life." - Albert Camus

"Ain't nothing but a stranger in this world
I'm nothing but a stranger in this world" -Van Morrison

AQ-43 (32-50 indicates a strong likelihood of Asperger syndrome or autism).
EQ-14 out of 80
Rdos: Your neurodiverse (Aspie) score: 173 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 39 of 200
You are very likely neurodiverse (Aspie)