Autism Training Helps Grand Ledge Police in the Field

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GRAND LEDGE (WILX)-- Police don't always know what they're dealing with when they show up to a call, but some special training in Grand Ledge is changing that.

Officers there were recently trained to recognize and deal with people on the autism spectrum. Officers who have come across situations involving people on the autism spectrum can now handle those incidents with more ease and confidence.

It's putting parents of these children at ease as well.

"We've had the law involved with our son before, when he ran away. When the police show up, any kindness and humor makes all the difference," said Mary Sharp.

The youngest of Sharp's three children, Nick is on the autism spectrum. It means the world to her to know that police are going through autism training.

"To have officers to be familiar and not have a shocked. Instead, know they're not going to expect him to answer right away or may not get him to answer at all," said Sharp.

"As a liaison officer and working at the high school it was very nice to go through the training that helped me understand autism better," said Grand Ledge Officer Chris Chester.

On a day to day basis Officer Chester deals with students on the spectrum , now he has a better understanding on how to handle some of the situations.

"It provided a lot of info we can use. Like a chart, if they run into a police officer they can point to the chart and I can understand this is how a student or person needs help," said Chester.

Kids on the spectrum are seven times more likely to come into contact with law enforcement, making it all the more reason for special training.

"I think most if not all police officers should go through the training," said Chester.

For Sharp, it means she can worry less about the safety of her son.

"To have police to have increased competency it's a huge reassurance," said Sharp.

Statistics show one in 88 people are on the autism spectrum nationwide. Making it that much more likely an officer will be put in a situation that will require them to use their training.

The Eaton County sheriff's office attended the same autism training, putting its road patrol through the whole course. The Lansing Police Department has also been training a select few officers for years now.

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