PUBLIC SAFETY Sheri’s oce introduces initiative to raise law enforcement awareness for autistic residents
INCREASING AWARENESS An initiative by the Montgomery County Sheri’s Oce hopes to increase awareness and safety for those living with autism and make autism resources more accessible. THE INITIATIVE
BY CHRISTOPHER GOODWIN
About 1 out of 44 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention found in a 2018 study conducted on 8-year-olds. That ratio has risen since 2000, when the rate was 1 in 150. “Those numbers are growing,” Moore said at the meeting. “That gap is getting smaller every 10 years.” The MCSO initiative has already ribbons identifying their home or vehicle as one where a person with autism is present, according to MCSO Lt. Scott Spencer. Organizations are becoming more reliant on one another to obtain individual care, said Cary Mollinedo, seen 25 Montgomery County residents register to receive co-founder and director of Texas Autism Academy, a school for autis- tic children based in The Woodlands. “The spectrum is a spectrum for a reason; there’s not one pivotal com- ponent; it’s a multitude of dierent characteristics that make up each individual child,” Mollinedo said. Statewide solutions State Rep. Steve Toth, RThe Woodlands, said he would be willing to nd funding support for the pro- gram in the next legislative session. “This ... came from a need in our community ... and I’m going to try to nd dollars for it when I go into session,” Toth said. A 2007 statewide mandate helped
interactions with law enforcement. “They don’t know his diagnosis, or they may think that he is acting suspicious,’’ Moore told The Wood- lands Township board of directors at
The Montgomery County’s Sheri’s Oce has launched an initiative to increase awareness for autism and train ocers to better handle situations involving autistic residents. The initiative—which originally began in late 2020 but was delayed due to COVID-19—allows families with members who have autism to register and list their symptoms so law enforcement will be better equipped to mediate the interaction appropriately, MCSO Sgt. Jason Moore said. The program was created by Moore, whose son was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old. Moore said he saw a need as his son approached driving age to con- sider how autism may inuence
Parents can register individuals on the spectrum with the Montgomery County Sheri’s Oce. Participants can place a ribbon on their front door or vehicle to signify someone with autism is present. The program trains deputies to better recognize signs of autism.
an April 21 meeting. Identifying the signs
Kelly Bivens, co-founder and behavior analyst for The Grove ABA, which provides Applied Behavior Analysis services to those with autism, said she believes the program is a good start to creating a safe environment for those living with autism. “It’s a complicated, multifac- eted spectrum; it is not enough to describe symptoms of autism, simply because it can look so dif- ferent from just functioning level,” Bivens said.
Information is available at www.mctxsheri.org.
Studies of 8-year-olds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that:
kids were diagnosed with autism in 2018. 1 in 44
kids were diagnosed with autism in 2000. 1 in 150
“IF YOU MEET ONE PERSON WITH AUTISM, YOU MEET ONE PERSON WITH AUTISM. YOU DON’T GET THE WHOLE PICTURE OF WHAT AUTISM IS AND ... AN IDEA OF WHAT THE SPECTRUM LOOKS LIKE.” KELLY BIVENS, COFOUNDER AND BEHAVIOR ANALYST, THE GROVE ABA
SOURCES: MONTGOMERY COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
medical insurance providers to cover applied behavior analysis, Bivens said. Initiatives like this provide more safety and validity within communities, she said. “If you meet one person with autism then you meet one person with autism. You don’t get the whole picture of what autism is and ... an idea of what the spec- trum looks like across people,” Bivens said.
RECOGNIZING TRAITS OF AUTISM Although those with autism spectrum disorder may exhibit a range of symptoms, traits of autistic individuals can include:
• avoiding eye contact; using unusual speech; • diculty picking up on social cues;
• impulsive or rapid mood changes; or • obsessive inter- est or behavior.
ease the economic disparities of these families by requiring
SOURCES: TEXAS AUTISM ACADEMY, THE GROVE ABACOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
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