Several local police departments helping increase autism awareness

Posted at 6:03 AM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 06:03:09-04

(WXYZ) — It's Autism Awareness Month, and police departments are jumping into action. Northville, Troy and Ferndale officers are uniting to educate themselves and others, with a top goal of taking the right approach, while assisting people with autism.

According to the Autism Alliance of Michigan, our state has the fifth-largest autism population in the U.S. There are more than 16,500 Michigan students who have been diagnosed with autism.

It's a developmental disorder that can impact how people communicate, behave, socialize and process information, and no two cases are exactly alike.

Police departments are using calming bags, stickers and training sessions to bring awareness across metro Detroit.

Ferndale police officer Alison Shank is bringing her first-hand experience to the force, teaching her colleagues the importance of autism awareness, and stepping up for people with autism, including her own son.

"I have a 10-year-old son with autism, and I want to make sure if he's interacting with police or police interact with him, they know what to look for, what to expect," she said.

Ferndale is among several departments receiving training from the Autism Alliance of Michigan. A show of support, with Ferndale cruisers outfitted in symbols.

In Troy, officers are eager to learn more about the developmental disorder that impacts so many families.

"Our training gives us a little cue of what to expect," Officer Paul Oakley said

Police are handing out autism awareness stickers, and they serve a great purpose.

Homeowners can also place the stickers in their windows, giving officers a heads up that someone with autism might welcome them at the door.

Anyone can request a sticker, regardless of where you live.

In Northville, community service officer Andrew Domzalski is leading the charge.

He rolled out innovative calming bags to help address sensory needs statewide. Inside you'll find earmuffs, sunglasses and sensory toys.

Support for autism awareness in Northville is growing every day. Officers stop by schools as much as possible, handing out stickers and applying their training in the classroom.