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Key West, FL: Autism affects "one in 59 people"; police receive training

June 5, 2020, Key West, FL, Florida Keyes Weekly: Autism Awareness—KWPD trains all officers to recognize autism The puzzle pieces were falling into place for the Autism Society of the Keys (ASK) and its unprecedented partnership with the Key West Police Department. Six police cars were wrapped with the society’s puzzle-piece logo. Police horses have blankets with the logo. Officers could wear blue badges (the color of autism awareness) in April. And Chief Sean Brandenburg had ensured that all 94 officers were skillfully trained to recognize autism, a spectrum disorder that varies in severity and symptoms, but now affects one in 59 people. But the commitment of Brandenburg and Lt. Matt Haley, whose 13-year-old daughter is autistic, continues despite the pandemic. … In addition to training all officers to recognize and better handle autism, Brandenburg created a method for parents to register their address and alert police to the presence of an autistic child at an address. ... “That way, if a 911 call comes for that address, the responding officers will see specific notes about the child, and the police perhaps can approach without sirens and flashing lights, which can cause seizures in some people on the autism spectrum,” Hope Haley said. Brandenburg also agreed to keep all five police cars used by school resource officers in Key West schools wrapped with the society’s logo. … Untrained police often mistake these stimming behaviors as drug-induced behavior, Hope Haley said, which is why the police training is so crucial. The Haleys and Brandenburg are committed to continuing the department’s relationship with ASK despite the global interruption of the pandemic. …


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