Mayor Stephen Zanni and Chief Joseph E. Solomon are pleased to announce that the Methuen Police Department received training on working with citizens who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
During the month of January, all police officers and civilian dispatchers received training from Sgt. Joseph Aiello on how first responders should handle calls for service that involve a person with a spectrum disorder.
According to the National Health Institute of Mental Health, ASD includes a wide range of symptoms, skills and levels of disability. Many people who have an ASD can exhibit symptoms including difficulty communicating and interacting with others and repetitive behaviors, as well as limited interests or activities.
The program promotes the basic knowledge of identifying someone with a spectrum disorder in an attempt to better serve the subject if he or she requires assistance of any kind that the department may able to facilitate. After completing the training, officers were given a laminated card to assist them in communicating with people who have an ASD and are non-verbal.
“I am proud of the entire department for taking the time to complete this program,” Mayor Zanni said. “Training our police department on interacting with residents who have a spectrum disorder is important to be sure that we are able to effectively communicate with a potentially vulnerable population in our city.”
The latest statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that about one in 68 children has been identified with some form of ASD. In Methuen, approximately 400 families have a family member who has a form of ASD.
“The large percentage of residents in Methuen who live with some form of ASD make it very likely that officers may encounter a person with autism spectrum disorder,” Chief Solomon said. “The more educated we can be on this matter, the more we can ensure that we are providing the highest level of service to our community.”
Residents who have family members that suffer from a spectrum disorder can visit the Methuen Police Department’s website and download a form to fill out and turn into the police department. This information will be entered into the department’s system to help officer’s identify and effectively assist those in need.