Ask Trooper Rob: Troopers train to deal with autistic individualsPublished 9:11pm Thursday, December 22, 2011
Autism is a neurological based developmental disability that seriously affects a person’s ability to communicate, socialize and make judgments. It affects a person’s sensory receptors of lights, sounds, touches, odors and tastes. Autism is prevalent in 1 out of 110 American children with 58 of those being male. It may or may not be physically obvious. Autism does not have a cure; however, some people can make progress with behavior, responses, communication and life skills.
This information is based on training Michigan State Police community service troopers received in April this year. April is Autism Awareness Month. This training was given to us by representatives from the Mid-Michigan Autism Association. Their mission is to improve the quality of life for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families by providing support, resources and opportunities throughout Mid-Michigan. The association sponsors a monthly newsletter, social and recreational activities, educational opportunities, summer camps, law enforcement training and autism legislation. Its website is www.midmichiganautism.org.
After troopers received this training, they were tasked with training other troopers in law enforcement, which was recently completed. Police may encounter autistic persons in a variety of calls. Subject wandering, intruders, out of control people and missing persons are a few examples where we may encounter these subjects.
Our training informed us on safe ways to respond and deescalate these situations.
If you are a parent or caregiver of an autistic person, ensure your 911 information is updated. It may assist in law enforcement response to your residence. Other tips include placing locks up high on the door, install audible alarms on the doors and windows to alert you in the event the door or window is opened, and inform your neighbors of the situation.
Police also receive training in Vulnerable Adult Abuse (VAA). VAA is harming or creating serious risk of harm for someone who is an older adult, or a person with a physical or mental disability.
Thousands of Michigan’s vulnerable adults are abused, neglected, and exploited every year. Many victims suffer in silence out of fear, shame, dependence on their caregiver or because they do not know there is help available.
Different types of abuse include physical assaults, neglect (failing to take care of someone’s basic needs or protect them from harm) such as refusing or not providing water, food, shelter or medicine; emotional or psychological abuse such as insults, threats, humiliation, harassment and isolation; sexual assaults and financial abuse, such as misusing/stealing a person’s money or possessions, coercing a signature on a document and the improper use of conservatorship, guardianship or power of attorney.
If you know someone who is being abused, encourage them to seek help. You can contact the Vulnerable Adult Helpline to report suspected abuse.
This helpline is open 24 hours a day and all calls are kept strictly confidential. This number is (800) 996-6228.
You can also learn about programs and services in the area (senior centers, area agency on aging, centers for independent living, and domestic violence assistance programs). A local Triad organization is an excellent program along with other prevention teams or projects.
Resources include the Long Term Care Ombudsman, 1-866-485-9393, Michigan Protection and Advocacy, 1-800-347-5297, and the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors, (800) 347-5297.
Autistic persons and vulnerable adults are citizens of Michigan, and law enforcement training ensures fair and proper treatment.
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