Training gives officer tips on dealing with autism

The form is available on the township’s Web site.

By Denise Dick

BOARDMAN — Family members or caregivers of people with autism can help educate police in the best ways to interact with those who have the disorder.

Detective Michelle Glaros, who is trained in crisis intervention, recently attended training for law-enforcement officers in dealing with autistic people. The session’s instructor is an officer whose son is autistic.

“One of the things they suggested was for police departments to develop a registry of people who have autism,” said Chief Jack Nichols.

The township has posted an autism emergency contact form on its Web site, The form can be accessed through the scroll of announcements near the left-hand side of the page.

Forms also may be picked up at the police department, 8299 Market St.

Glaros said the information on the form, including name and description of the individual, address and their method of communication, will be used to help police or other emergency personnel as well as the autistic person.

For someone who is nonverbal, for example, the form asks how the person communicates such as sign language, picture boards or in writing.

If police get a call to the home of an autistic person, the address will come up as such, allowing dispatchers to relay it to responding officers, Glaros said. It also will be useful if the autistic person wanders and is reported missing.

If an officer is unaccustomed to dealing with autistic people and unaware of the characteristics involved, that officer might not recognize it, the detective said.

Some people with autism may not respond to officer commands, creating problems.

But if the officers know the basic information provided through the contact form, they’re more prepared, Glaros said.

It also will be useful for ambulance personnel, she said.

The form can be printed from the Web site, completed and returned to the police department.

In 2006, township police were called to Market Street and Shields Road on a report of a child in the road who had narrowly escaped being hit by traffic. The boy was autistic, and his mother reported him missing shortly after police responded to the scene.

Nichols said forms also may be completed by family members and caregivers of others who are nonverbal, such as someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. That information will help police if that person wanders away too.

Autism is a “neurological disorder that can significantly affect one’s ability to communicate, to reason and to interact with others,” according to the Autism Society of Greater Cleveland’s Web site. “It is a spectrum disorder that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees of severity.”

As many as one in 150 children born today will have some form of autism, the society’s Web site says.

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