Helping first responders identify individuals with autism

Apr 6, 2017

Officer Kylee Nichols of the Irondequoit Police Department displays autism ribbon magnets.
Credit Beth Adams/WXXI News

Starting last summer, law enforcement officers across Monroe County received special training to improve their communication and interactions with individuals who are on the autism spectrum.

Now, the Monroe County Association of Chiefs of Police is asking the public to help in this effort by making it easier for police to identify people who have autism.

Individuals with autism and families who have a member on the autism spectrum are asked to put an autism awareness magnet on the left rear side of their vehicle.

Brockport police Chief Dan Varrenti says that information is helpful for officers so they can take advantage of their training.                       

"At the scene of the emergency, sometimes it's just inherent for police officers to be excited as well. We're human beings, just like everybody else. But to know that this may exacerbate the situation at hand is a wise reminder to the officers to slow down, make sure you enunciate properly, allow the person to process your thoughts that you're articulating, and just have more patience that you may routinely have at an emergency type of situation."

People with autism are seven times more likely to come into contact with law enforcement than their typical peers, according to the FBI.

A “Heroes on Both Sides” autism 5k run and walk is scheduled on Saturday, April 8, at the Monroe County Public Safety Training Facility on Scottsville Road.  Proceeds from the event will support future autism awareness training for local first responders. 

April is Autism Awareness month. 

This story was produced by WXXI’s Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.