Program helping cops understand the behavior of people with autism

Program helping cops understand the behavior of people with autism

Imagine being worried every time you step out of your house that your child may end up in an encounter with police.

That is the reality for many families of children with autism.

It's part of a mandated training that's aimed to give officers the tools they need to deal with people with intellectual developmental disabilities, because sometimes the outcome can be tragic.

"What we are trying to prevent is that. Because our deputies don't understand certain cues is perceived to be a threat when it's not a threat," explained Lieutenant Mark Junkerman.

Glenn is a 26-year-old man with autism. He's also a key player in training provided by Pathfinders for Autism.

"We teach a lot of de-escalation techniques," said Shelly Allred with Pathfinders for Autism. "So how they can slow things down and how they can help an individual that is in crisis, how they can help calm the individual down so that the entire situation is deescalated."

Through Glenn, officers can see how someone with autism may respond differently.

Officers learn how the actions of someone with autism can easily be misinterpreted.

"As their anxiety is going up and you are approaching, their hands are going in their pockets, and we got ourselves a problem," said instructor Drew Myers.

Drew has a close connection with Glenn. He's his dad through adoption. Detective Janelle Myers is Glenn's mom.

For years Janelle dealt with the challenges of raising a child with autism as a single mom, then she met Drew.

"I am definitely very blessed," she said.

That's why Janelle sees a unique opportunity as a police officer and a mom.

"I want to know that I am actively involved in the training of the officers because I know I want them to act," she said.

One in 68 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The prevalence is even higher in boys.

The challenges often become even greater as those children reach adulthood.

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