Chief John E. Cowan, Chief of Police
153 Central St.
East Bridgewater, MA 02333
For Immediate Release
Monday, March 14, 2016
Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
East Bridgewater Police Officer Attends Autism Spectrum Disorder Training
EAST BRIDGEWATER – Chief John Cowan and the East Bridgewater Police Department announce that Officer Tallitha Connor recently completed a specialized training course aimed at better serving those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Training, “Interact Safely With People With Autism,” was held on Wednesday, March 2 at the Plymouth Police Academy. The training was conducted by Educational Consultant and Autism Specialist, Emily Iland, M.A., and Self-Advocate, Tom Iland.
Officer Connor, a four-year veteran of the department, learned how to effectively serve those with ASD and became certified in training other officers in the department to improve their own skills.
Autism, now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about the appearance of a person with ASD that sets them apart from others, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, one in 45 children ages 3 and older are diagnosed with ASD. For the East Bridgewater Police Department, it is important to recognize the signs of ASD and learn how to react.
“I commend Officer Connor for taking the time to complete the ASD training program. Officers may unexpectedly encounter a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder, so this is a great opportunity to educate the department on how to effectively serve a potentially vulnerable population,” Chief Cowan said. “The more educated we are on the matter, the more beneficial it will be for us in the long run.”
ASD affects many children and adults throughout their lifetime, and officers are likely to encounter ASD individuals during their patrol duties.
After completing her training, Officer Connor drafted an internal set of guidelines to assist East Bridgewater Police Officers and provide them with general information to be aware of, which includes recognizing signs of someone with ASD.
Some signs to help an officer recognize someone with ASD include:
- Lack of eye contact
- Little interest in others
- Appears to lack empathy
- Preoccupied with certain topics or objects
- Need for sameness or routines
- Trouble starting or holding a conversation
- Language or verbal skills possibly nonverbal communication
- Processing delays
- Sensory issues
- Fine/gross motor skills
Someone with ASD may take everything that is said into literal context. Some tips to interact with someone on the autism spectrum:
- Make sure the person is always safe
- Use a calm voice
- Wait, be patient. Give the person time to process
- Be clear. Spell things out. Be specific go one step at a time
- Explain procedures as they happen. Use words like first, now, and next
- Simplify when the person doesn’t understand what you mean
- Be aware of sensory sensitivities. Reduce input whenever possible
- Avoid fight or flight responses
- Allow the person to rock or use other self-stimulatory behavior if it does not hurt anyone.
- Encourage the person by saying, We’re here to help you
- Listen to caregivers for ideas to handle the situation
Anyone interested in additional information on ASD-related issues should contact Officer Tallitha Connor at the East Bridgewater Police Department at 508-378-7223.