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Teaching others about autism

Horford County Sheriff's Office deputies are learning about autism. WBFF.

Imaging being worried every time you step out of your house that your child may end up in an encounter with police.

That is the reality for many families of children living with autism.

April is Autism Awareness Month.

Some first responders are being trained to make sure their interactions with people with autism remain safe.

Law enforcement officers at the Harford County Sheriff's Office are getting an important lesson.

The training is mandatory, aimed at giving officers the tools they need to deal with people with intellectually developmental disabilities because sometimes the outcome can be tragic.

"What we are trying to prevent is that because our deputies don't understand certain cues are perceived to be a threat when it's not a threat," said Lt. Mark Junkerman.

That's where Glenn comes in. Glenn is a 26-year-old man living with autism. He is a key player in the training, provided by Pathfinders for Autism.

"We teach a lot of de-escalation techniques so how they can slow things down and how they can help an individual that is in crisis, how they can help calm the individual down so that the entire situation is deescalated," said Shelly Allred.

Through Glenn, officers can see how someone with autism may respond differently.

Officers learn how the actions of someone with autism can easily be misinterpreted.

Instructor Drew Myers has a close connection with Glenn. He's his dad through adoption. Detective Janelle Myers is Drew's mother. For years, she dealt with the challenges of raising a child with autism as a single mom. Then she met Drew.

"I'm definitely very blessed," she said.

That's why Janelle sees a unique opportunity, and as a police officer and mother.

"I want to know that I am actively involved in the training of the officers because I know how I want them to act," said Myers.

It's a family committed to a cause.

One in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder. The prevalence is even higher in boys. The challenges often become even greater as those children approach adulthood.

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