Communication Sciences & Disorders Faculty Teach Fort Wayne First Responders

Sharon Mankey and Mariesa Rang from IPFW’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) provided in-service training to first responders of the Southwest Allen County Fire District, the Fort Wayne Fire Department, and the Allen County Sheriff’s Department on communicating with individuals who are nonverbal or use augmentative/alternative communication systems (AAC). During their presentation, Mankey and Rang stressed that individuals with disabilities, especially those who use AAC devices, are often crime victims because perpetrators perceived them as easy targets.

Mankey and Rang presented twice to groups from the Southwest Fire District in August 2016, made a training video for the Fort Wayne Fire Department in November, and made five presentations at the Allen County Sheriff’s department in January 2017 in order to train their officers. The presentations include not only a lecture but a hands-on segment that allowed officers problem-solve scenarios involving nonverbal and AAC device communicators. One person took on the role as an officer and the other as a crime victim who used a communication system to give information. The officers learned that it takes patience to communicate with people but that the wait is often worth the effort when gathering information for situations.

After the presentations, many first responders noted how much they did not know concerning this population and how much better they understand the need to communicate well with them. “First responders,” Mankey shared, “Need to know how to communicate with such individuals as they may be the only source of information about a crime, accident, illness, or fire.”

For more information on this project, please contact Sharon Mankey at or (260) 481-6952.

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