MENTOR-ON-THE-LAKE, Ohio (WJW) – Being a police officer requires extensive training to be prepared to handle any situation – including interacting with people with developmental disabilities, like autism.
That’s why the Hussman Institute for Autism is contributing sensory kits filled with some of the tools they need to succeed.
“It helps us communicate with them,” Mentor-on-the-Lake Lieutenant John Forsythe said. “It helps calm the person down.”
Mentor-on-the-Lake received ten kits for its officers to use daily.
Hussman Institute for Autism Director of Outreach Elizabeth Benevides said they have distributed kits to 20 different law enforcement agencies in Ohio: Elyria Police, Brunswick Police, Avon Police, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, and Macedonia Police. They also offer a two-hour training class to officers.
“We just ask that along with that the officers watch a short training video about what’s in the kit before they put them in their patrol car, so they know how to use them,” Benevides said.
The kits come with communication boards, noise-canceling headphones, a plush stuffed animal, a stress ball and more.
Lt. Forsythe said the kits work in many interactions.
“It’s not just for autism, it could be for elderly that may be suffering from Alzheimer’s, somebody who doesn’t speak English, young children, who maybe have anxiety issues,” he said.
But the primary goal is to make a difference in what could be a child’s worst day.
“When they see us, it may make their anxiety go up even more because they might think that they’re in trouble,” he said. “So, these kits help us calm them down, help us figure out how to help that person and de-escalate the situation.”