MOORE, Okla. (KFOR) – “Our police officers need to realize that our children and adults with autism are going to respond to situations differently and they need to know how to react to that,” said Moore resident DeLyn Richardson.
That message is being taught during training sessions at the Moore Police Department.
Officers from across Oklahoma are learning the best ways to respond to calls with people on the autism spectrum.
“We want to make sure that when we respond to a call we have as much information as possible so that we can have a successful outcome,” said Moore Police Chief Todd Gibson.
In four different classes, officers learn different triggers, attributes and responses they could encounter in the field.
Sgt. Cory Sutton with the University of Oklahoma Police Department teaches the course.
“No matter the size of their agency, they’re going to interact with someone with autism, and if they don’t understand what they’re dealing with, it could lead to a bad outcome,” said Sgt. Sutton.
“How we can de-escalate and how we can calm the situation without overreacting ourselves,” said Chief Gibson.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say one in 54 children have been identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma says the latest data from the State Department of Education shows that Moore Public Schools has more students on an IEP for autism than any other public school district in the state.
“It’s so overdue,” said Richardson.
Richardson has two sons with autism.
She says knowing police have this training, eases some of her fears.
“I’m so concerned, because I know my own children might be slower to respond to commands or not respond at all,” said Richardson.
Sgt. Sutton’s main message to other officers, take it slow and be concise if they do recognize a person may have autism.
“I’m trying to educate officers across the state of Oklahoma to be more aware that you may have to change your gears [and] change your tactics,” said Sutton.
Wednesday, April 28, The Autism Foundation of Oklahoma, AutismOklahoma’s Piece of Mind program, and Moore Police Department are partnering to offer simulated traffic stops for drivers with autism and other disabilities. Drivers with a learner’s permit or state-issued driver’s license will practice being pulled over by Moore PD in a safe and controlled environment.
The event takes place from 3:30-5 p.m. in the parking lot of Moore’s old community center located at 301 S. Howard, next to the public library.