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Charleston, SC: Police receive ASD training; 'we’re seeing autism in our communities more and more'

Oct 18, 2023, Charleston (SC) Post and Courier: North Charleston police officers learn tips to improve interactions with autistic people

A group of 20 officers sat in a classroom to learn the best practices when interacting with a person who has autism or special needs.

The Oct. 18 training was hosted by the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs as part of a weeklong training organized by the South Carolina chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Cpl. Thomas Bennett, who has been with the department for more than 16 years, said this was the most in-depth training he has received on the subject. …

“This training really talks about how to speak to somebody with autism, how to get on their level. I think we need to see more of it,” said Bennett, who previously taught students with special needs before joining the police department. He hasn’t encountered a person with autism in his current role with the department. …

“These steps do require some formal training,” said Stephanie Turner, autism division director with DDSN, who led the training. “It’s some extra steps that somebody has to slow down and think about when interacting with somebody with that diagnosis.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism, based on 2020 data. This is an increase from data two years prior that stated the rate was 1 in 44 children.

“We’re seeing autism in our communities more and more,” Turner said. “Five-year-olds become 15-year-olds become 50-year-olds, and that autism diagnosis doesn’t go away.”

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