Thursday, January 31, 2013

NAA New York Metro Chapter Sponsors a Training Session for NYPD Officers

By Khalid Rehman, MD, Chairperson of the NAA NY Metro Advocacy Committee

For the first time in our 5 year history, NAA NY Metro has connected with the New York Police Department (NYPD) to help train police officers in Autism Recognition and Response.

Thanks to your generous donations, the training session - which was organized and paid for by the NAA NY Metro Chapter -was held on 25 January 2013 at the NYPD Academy. The audience included more than 300 police sergeants (command level officers) who will in turn train the rank & file police officers in every precinct of New York City. The attendees were provided with videos (DVD) and written material to be used in training the police officers. This was a successful culmination of an effort started by us few years ago.

As the number of individuals on the autism spectrum continues to rise, the likelihood that any one of them will encounter contact with law enforcement officials has increased. In a study published in 1993, it was reported that the people with autism (as well as those with developmental disabilities) were approximately seven times more likely to come in contact with police than the general public.

Since many individuals on the spectrum have difficulty obeying commands, making eye contact, are often non-verbal, resist being touched or man-handled and have other sensory and behavioral issues, it creates a challenge for the law enforcement officials to handle them. If the police officers and other first responders know how to recognize someone with autism and how to handle them, their job can be easier and safe.

The training was conducted by Dennis Debbaudt, an internationally recognized specialist in this field. Mr. Debbaudt, the father of a young man with autism, runs the Autism Risk & Safety Management Company. He is an author and public speaker and has conducted training of the first responders all over the United States, as well as in other countries.  He taught the attendees how to recognize someone with autism and made them aware of physical, emotional and cognitive issues that many people with autism face. With the use of videos, slides and his own body language, he taught them how to interview, investigate and apprehend (if necessary) in a safe and effective way.  He also talked about wandering and effective search and rescue efforts.

The NYPD also has developed its own video on autism, which was also shown at the training session. This video is available to the commanding officers for training purpose. It was also interesting to note that by show of hands, at least 15-20% of the audience indicated that they know of someone with autism among their family, friends or neighborhood.
The NY Metro Chapter is planning to enhance this experience of the NYPD officers by organizing a community day on 2 April 2013, the National and World Wide Autism Awareness day.  We are working with NYPD and its Community Affairs Division to host individuals with autism and their families at their respective police precincts on that day. This will allow the individuals on the spectrum to see and meet police officers in uniform while at the same time provide opportunity for the officers to get to know these individuals in their community.

The NY Metro Chapter is also considering asking the police academy to make this educational material a permanent part of the curriculum of the police cadets and also to sponsor such a training session every few years.


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Anonymous said...

I love that this is happening. On multiple occasions my brother has had horrible tantrums and one time an officer told me that if they were to see my brother having a tantrum and he were to go their way that they would be in a position where they could defend themselves and this involved even shooting him. I am glad that they are getting educated on children with Autism.


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