It’s Autism Awareness month, and the Xavier DeGroat Foundation hosted a police autism acceptance ceremony at the State Capitol this afternoon.
Police from all across the area came together to support Xavier’s initiative to teach officers how to interact with people with autism.
“Police need more training and need more diverse inclusively those with autism, so they can understand them properly,” said Xavier DeGroat of Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation.
This comes after Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed a law into affect last June. The law allows people with autism to list their condition on their driving record. The goal is to let police officers know there could be a communication barrier during traffic stops and other interactions.
“I was very pleased and honored to see that be signed by governor Gretchen Whitmer. Now we look forward to making it extra and growing it like a root of a tree,” said DeGroat.
According to the Autism Society, one in five people with autism will interact with police before the age of 21. DeGroat says when autistic individuals encounter police, the sirens and lights can increase their sensor anxiety which may lead to trouble with communication, and tantrums. The autism advocate says he wants police departments to embrace this new law.
“So we can get more of their district residents with autism to be able to register their vehicles, so when they get pulled over police in their location know how to handle that and cooperate with that new law,” said DeGroat.
Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green says his department has been doing autism training for years.
“I think what the law did for us is really let us know we were heading in the right direction of our policies and procedures and in our training,” said Green.
Other departments like Grand Ledge now plans to partner with DeGroat to learn more about interacting with people with autism.
DeGroat says marks the beginning of change.
“We expect to start seeing more acceptance for autism, not just awareness.”