Irondequoit police use new tool to work with people on the autism spectrum

October 20, 2016 06:10 PM

A new tool will help police officers interact with those on the autism spectrum -- and it can fit in their pocket.

Irondequoit police officers are carrying a card with them that has tips to remind them on how they can communicate better with people that are autistic when they are in the field. We showed the card to people in Irondequoit and asked them what they think about it?

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"Many people on the autism spectrum are non-verbal or unable to respond appropriately in certain situations," says Michael Rinez.

Rinez and his family live in Irondequoit. His wife works with people who are on the autism spectrum. He's happy to hear about the Irondequoit Police Department's new efforts to connect with people that are autistic.

Rinez says, "It's just another reason that I’m proud to be an Irondequoit resident."

Irondequoit police officers are carrying this card with them. It has tips on how they should interact with people that are on the autism spectrum.

"It really helps build our community engagement and we're working with the community," says Irondequoit Police Chief Richard Tantalo.

Chief Tantalo says they are also providing additional training to officers and partnering with a local autism group. This gives Rachel Rosner a peace of mind. She's a mother of two children on the spectrum and director at AutismUp.

"Knowing that police officers and others in our area are taking the time to learn and to understand makes me a little more comfortable sending him out to the world," says Rosner.

Rosner says emergency situations can turn uglier if first responders are not properly trained.

"A person with autism is already much more anxious than you and I, so I think those kinds of situations increase their level of anxiety and may decrease their ability to communicate effectively," says Rosner.

That's exactly what Chief Tantalo wants to address. He's hoping their new efforts will improve their relations with the community.

"Uniform should not increase your level of anxiety but be welcoming," says the chief. "We're here to help you work through whatever it is that you called about."

Irondequoit police will have their Autism Awareness Day this Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at its headquarters on Titus Avenue. People with autism will get to meet and greet officers from the department. Chief Tantalo says this is just the start.


Nina Porciuncula

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