Autism Society of Greater Phoenix will host BE SAFE Interactive Screenings throughout Arizona, bringing local police officers and young people with Autism together to learn from one another. Officers from many different local police departments will be paired with teens/adults with Autism to mentor them and learn from them.
After watching each BE SAFE movie scene, police officers will help the young people learn and practice four life-saving skills: 1) Stay where you are when you meet the police, 2) Do what the police tell you to do, 3) Show your empty hands to the police, 4) Don’t touch an officer or their equipment.
Teaching safe behaviors directly and explicitly to individuals with special learning needs is essential for promoting safety for themselves and others. One in 44 children are now diagnosed with Autism. Children with Autism are growing up and participating in community life more than ever before, with an estimated 50,000 kids with autism turning 18 each year.
Even when the police are trained or know that someone has a disability, things can still go wrong if the person with a disability is unprepared for a police encounter. Their first instinctive reaction might be a “fight or flight” response, especially if the person is unfamiliar with the police or their procedures. This event will help teens and adults with Autism, and related conditions, become prepared for all different kinds of police encounters, ranging from asking for help, to being detained as a suspect. Officers will have the chance to interact with special needs individuals in the communities they serve.
This event is an opportunity to see local officers at their best and witness relationships being built that bridge the gap between police and the Autism community. The BE SAFE event is positive, uplifting, and has the potential to save lives. It is a worthwhile opportunity to shine the light on people coming together to promote the safety of some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Are you a school or law enforcement officer interested in hosting a BE SAFE event? Contact us at info@PHXautism.org.
Shannon talks to Emily Iland about “Be Safe The Movie,” a unique video modeling DVD that teaches youth with autism and similar disabilities how to interact safely with the police. Professional ‘Be Safe’ curriculum training for parents and teachers and Interactive Screenings with local law enforcement and youth with disabilities are available as well!
Written by: Nancy Martinez
Police Investigative Specialist #6238
Chandler Police Department
1. Everyone is welcomed and received with unconditional positive regard. People are seen and heard for who they are – in all their wonderful uniqueness.
2. No question is off-limits. Adults and kids have many questions for police officers, but often no opportunity to ask them in a relaxed, neutral setting. Every question is answered, increasing true dialogue in our community.
3. Everyone gives space to those that may need more time. More time to process, more time to ask or answer a question, more time to express a thought. In a world filled with fast talkers and rapid-fire responses, it’s beautiful to hear an entire room create space – and wait.
4. Teamwork is welcome. In [a recent] event there was a young man who felt most comfortable sitting on the side of the room, engaged in his tablet. He did not “seem” to be part of the event, but rather waiting for it to end. Yet when the Jeopardy game was being played and a question was thrown out to those standing at the front of the room playing the game, he quickly rose from his chair, walked quickly to the kid holding the buzzer, pressed it, and then proceeded to accurately answer the question. The whole room cheered and clapped, at which point he smiled, nodded his head in acknowledgement, then quickly went back to his seat and returned to the game on his tablet.
5. These events give officers and citizens a way to continue to build and strengthen their relationships. As Cynthia Macluskie so eloquently says, “With understanding we build relationships and with relationships, we build safety.”
6. These are family events. In [a recent] event, one child was accompanied by his grandmother and mother. Three generations – teaching, learning, and creating fun memories.
7. These events are filled with laughter and playfulness – lots of it!
8. There are many helping hands at these events. When one student had a minor health emergency, at least two officers comforted him, calmed him, and walked him to the restroom to make sure he was well and cared for.
9. Police officers leave the event understanding a lot more about the community they serve than when they started – their interests, strengths, challenges, individual communication styles and quirks.
10. Community members leave the event understanding a lot more about officers than when they started – their interests, strengths, challenges, individual communication style and quirks.
A Phoenix-area incident last year drove home the need to continue training first responders on interacting with people with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Channel 12 News
Someone on the Autism spectrum may run, fight or shut down out of fear during an encounter with police. If the officer is not educated about disabilities, it can be a recipe for disaster.
When it comes to autism, there is no one formula to spot it. There is no list of characteristics that fit the bill each time. And while autism awareness is spreading, there are still places it can reach further, for example, law enforcement. Now one department has turned a misjudged and highly publicized incident into an opportunity to learn.
White Mountain Independent
“Our intent was to allow officers have actual time interacting with people with developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome so they could get a feel for how to better communicate with one another.” -Nathan Updike