Autism Awareness Month
Beginning April 1st, the San Leandro Police Department will celebrate Autism Awareness Month, and bring awareness to the community by wearing a special, commemorative patch on their uniform, recognizing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). More than 200,000 cases of ASD are diagnosed throughout the United States each year, affecting 1 out of every 68 children.
To further raise awareness, the San Leandro Police Officers’ Association invites members of the public to join them on National Autism Awareness Day at the San Leandro Police Department, on Monday, April 2nd from 12:00-3:00pm. Police and City staff members will meet and interact with people diagnosed with ASD, as the SLPOA sponsors a free BBQ lunch, games, and prizes.
The commemorative ASD patch worn by police during April was designed to include the SLPD logo and the world-wide multi-colored ASD symbol, with a “missing puzzle piece,” representing the complexity and mystery of those diagnosed with this incurable developmental disorder. San Leandro is the first law enforcement agency on the West Coast to celebrate Autism Awareness Month and wear the commemorative patch.
Commemorative patches and t-shirts will be available for purchase. Proceeds from the sales will be donated to the San Leandro-based “Regional Center of the East Bay”, who serve 935 clients diagnosed with ASD in both Alameda County and Contra Costa County.
ASD is a serious, permanent, developmental disorder, which includes people diagnosed with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Pervasive Development Disorder. Several members of the SLPD and many others have family members, or loved ones, or know of someone diagnosed with ASD.
“As a police officer and father of a teenage son suffering from ASD, I know how this disorder affects him and the challenges that he tries to cope with on a daily basis,” stated Officer Justin Blankinship, the founder of SLPD’s ASD program. “My goal is to raise awareness and help those that have been diagnosed with this incurable disorder,” he said. “I am thankful that we were introduced to the Regional Center early in his diagnosis. This program allows us to raise awareness and give back to the Regional Center who does so much for their ASD clients and families.”
ASD impairs an individual’s ability to effectively communicate, socialize and interact with others. This presents a challenge not only to families, but to law enforcement and first responders. Generally, first responders only interact with people with ASD during acute crisis situations. Crisis situations may include when someone with ASD leaves their home, school, or place of visit unexpectedly and is reported missing, or when they may be trying to cope with sensory overload and create a disturbance, which is often perceived by many as being violent.
The San Leandro Police Department is proud of its community outreach programs. Members often interact with children playing near their homes, in parks, during recess at their schools, or when they simply say, “hi,” to a family eating dinner in a local restaurant.
As part of Autism Awareness Month and to enhance interactions with persons diagnosed with ASD, the SLPD staff will receive updated California Peace Officers’ Standards & Training as recommended in Senate Bill 1531, teaching them how to better recognize and interact with people affected by ASD. This will improve communication, reduce risk situations and allow officers to resolve incidents with a positive outcome, while dealing with someone suffering from ASD.