INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Around 60 local officers are now better equipped to interact with autistic individuals after specialized training in Independence County.
The Autism Law Enforcement Response Training Cooperation, or A.L.E.R.T., is a non-profit that provides this training to officers across the country.
CEO and trainer Stephanie Cooper teaches officers new skills to help them interact and intervene with different types of behaviors that are exhibited by people on the autism spectrum.
"When they are responding to a call with someone on the autism spectrum their typical approach won't work," Cooper said. "Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means it affects each and every child differently, so they learn that what works for one call won't work for another call."
The training is also interactive.
"I partner with the local autism community when I come and the reason why I do that is because these are the individuals that the officers are coming in contact with," Cooper said. "Since there's no look to autism, they get to learn first-hand."
Each officer also received a sensory kit to carry in their vehicles.
They include sensory items that can be used to help calm people with autism as well as a nonverbal communication sheet to aid the officers in gathering information.
The Independence County Sheriff's Department hosted the training and invited other area agencies to attend, including firefighters and EMS.
"[We learned] better how to recognize autism versus in the past what has always been that this person could possibly be under the influence of something," Independence County Sheriff Shawn Stephens said. "We were taught how to recognize autism, how to deal with it, how to get them calmed down, how to get them to respond to us."
If other law enforcement agencies would like to contact Cooper for this type of training, you can visit her website for you more information.
A.L.E.R.T is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.
The training and sensory kits are free, but Cooper's travel costs must be covered by the organization that hosts the training.
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