Everyday life throws us into the situations we may be prepared and may be not. Not all regular people know about autism and how people having this diagnoses can act in different situations. Unfortunately, as usual their actions can be interpreted wrong and autistic people can be accepted negatively and who knows what can happen to them…
A former police officer and a mother to an autistic child, Stephanie Cooper, knows how vital it is that police officer knows about autism. It’s very important to ensure safer interactions between the police and people with autism, so Cooper started Autism Law Enforcement Response Training (ALERT). It’s a training program for police officers that provides officers with sensory kits designed to help autistic people.
“People with autism have communication issues, and law enforcement officers need to be aware that their typical approach when responding to a call or an emergency situation with someone with autism spectrum disorder may not work,” says Cooper. “By the police being aware of people with autism, it helps ensure the safety of not only the person diagnosed with ASD, but the police on the scene as well.”
Stephanie realized that there are not enough training programs available to assist every law enforcement agency, so she offered her help to train her local police agency. Now she trains officers how to recognize an autistic person, what behavior they may experience, what types of calls may be received and other tips for how to interact with people who have autism.
“Officers [should] know that an autistic person may flee when approached by an officer, and fail to respond to an order to stop,” Cooper said. “Officers should not interpret any of these actions regarding an individual with autism as a reason for increased force. Officers [need] to take their time when dealing with an individual with autism, to allow for delayed responses, to speak slowly and clearly to an individual with ASD and to be aware that autistic individuals react to their environment.”
The program’s name is “Autism 101” and after officers accomplish it, they get kits filled with items designated to help them. These are communication cards, variety of calming sensory items, etc.
Hopefully, ALERT will be spread nationwide and help to save more lives.