Getting out the door for Mizpah and Kerry Rich looks a lot different for them than families with other kids.
Their son, Joshua, has autism, and has a hard time handling certain situations in public. Because of this, the Riches have to think and plan accordingly when leaving the house, since they don’t always know what to expect.
They understand that people on the autism spectrum can become overstimulated by too many sights and sounds, which causes them to react unpredictably or completely shut down.
The couple wanted to do something to offer support to other families and help them cope, so they decided to start a nonprofit foundation called Joshua’s Gift. It also provides resources and options for family activities.
In addition to their foundation, they also started a program called Code Joshua, which helps educate first responders on how to interact with people who have autism.
Although Joshua is 20 years old, his cognitive ability is age four. They know his behavior can be unpredictable, which could potentially put him in a dangerous position.
“Having a son, a Black son with autism, raises the level of fear when a stranger makes a call to police who may not be familiar with his behaviors,” Mizpah told KRON4.
“We were concerned there could be a real bad outcome for him. So we thought this is an opportunity to educate and develop relationships with first responders,” Kerry said.
The Riches, along with producers, put together an educational video, with help from the San Jose Police Department.
Another part of Code Joshua is a family registry system that allows families to register with local first responders. With their registration, they are able to include whatever information they want, such as a picture and behavior.
Part two of Code Joshua is a family registry system. Families would register with local first responders under “Code Joshua,” deciding what information they want to include, such as a picture and behavior.
“For our son, his stemming is flapping of hands or loud vocalizations, or he may plug his ears or he might run away from an officer and not follow commands because he doesn’t understand the commands,“ Mizpah said.
Some people on the spectrum are on sensory overload as it is, so when first responders respond to calls and arrive with sirens blasting and lights blaring, it can be extremely overwhelming for these people.
With Code Joshua, first responders will be aware of these issues before they even leave their station.
The Rich family hopes their idea will spread all over the country, so that more departments will follow suit to help those with autism.
Hear more of their story in the video below:Whizzco