First Responders Have a New Way to Identify People With Autism
Interacting with people on the spectrum can present unique challenges for police officers, as autism can lead to sensitivity to light and noise, anxiety, and aggressiveness if that person is scared. Unfortunately, all these symptoms, combined with police officers who don’t have prior knowledge of a person’s autism, have caused injuries during some of these unique situations. Brad and Kenny Benjamin, brothers who are on the spectrum, have come up with a registry to help give first responders a heads up. Through this registry, they’re raising awareness and helping keep people safe.
The Autism FYI Organization that Brad and Kenny founded lists several ways to interact with people on the spectrum during an emergency. Most important is staying calm, communicating with the person before touching him, and calling that person’s emergency contact right away. If the responder needs additional assistance, the registry also offers a 24-hour hotline.
Anyone with autism can sign up for the registry. One great way the brothers found to identify members is a wearable USB device. According to The Mighty, the USB device has information on the wearer that first responders can use to better assist that person. Two options are available for the USB device: a sweatband or a bracelet. Each option has a symbol on it, a puzzle piece inside a yield sign, which is another way the first responder can recognize if the wearer has autism.
The brothers are working with police departments for counties in Maryland, their home state, to set up the program. They started by meeting with the police chief in Prince George County, which plans to start using the program. Several neighboring counties have already agreed as well, but Brad and Kenny both want to expand across the country.