Police worked with autism nonprofits to launch program
Posted on 04/22/2021
Officers Barber and Vernon show the new autism care kits on board police vehicles.April is World Autism Month and Northville police officers are being trained how to recognize autism and interact successfully with the autistic community. Mimi’s Mission, Autism Alliance of Michigan and Autism Moms Know Safety have been instrumental in this effort.

Patrol vehicles will now be equipped with calming bags with sensory items such as earmuffs, sunglasses, weighted blankets and hand-held (tactile) items that can be soothing. These items will be distributed as needed for individuals to keep.

“It creates a way to bond with people who have autism,” said Police Officer Matthew Duggins, who is managing this first-time program for the department after being notified about it by Michigan State Police. With Cooke School in the Northville community, it’s important for the police to be informed of the special needs of the autism population.

Interactions with autistic children or young adults occur infrequently. However, when an officer is called to a home due to a domestic disturbance, to a school for crisis intervention, or even during a routine traffic stop, it’s important to know that individuals with autism often are extra sensitive to the lights and siren on a patrol vehicle. Approaching these individuals in a calm manner and offering them something from the calming kit can help ease anxiety they may be feeling.

The police may get a report of an autistic child who has run away from home. When police locate that individual, they would approach the person calmly and could now offer an item to ease their anxiety before trying to take them back home.

Autism Moms Know Safety provided safety kits; Autism Alliance of Michigan trained the officers, and Mimi’s Mission put together the calming bags, which were obtained at a bulk-rate prices for police departments in Michigan.