Public Safety and Security Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING TRAINING PROGRAMS FOR STATE AND LOCAL POLICE REGARDING THE ELOPEMENT OR WANDERING OF CHILDREN DIAGNOSED WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Public Safety and Security Committee
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill aims to ensure that local and State police include techniques for handling incidents involving juveniles diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or special needs in their POST training on juvenile matters. Incidents of elopement and wandering are common in children on the autism spectrum and often times they are nonverbal, the goal of this bill is to train police to be able to identify those children and have them trained in ways to effectively and safely communicate with them.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
State Representative Liz Linehan (D-103) and the Gibbons family provided shared testimony that supports this bill due to the Gibbons personal experiences that have shown first responders and local police in Southington and Cheshire to be very helpful with their autistic son who has wandered often. Rep. Linehan has proactively provided training for the Cheshire Police Department. They want to see this in other towns so police will have a better understanding of how to approach, assist and help autistic children and young adults, and they in turn will feel safe with them.
State Representative Catherine Abercrombie (D-83) supports this bill as someone who advocates for families with members diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She believes it is important for law enforcement officers to be able to recognize a child or adolescent who possibly has Autism and some of the behaviors that are part of it, and training should give them the tools they need to ensure the best outcome for the situation.
Jeffrey Falk, Officer of the Cheshire Police Department, supports this bill as someone who has dealt with wandering autistic children in his job, and as someone along with his fellow officers has received training on how to handle children with autism they believe can help tremendously.
Neil Dryfe, Chief of Police, Cheshire supports this bill because he thinks officers must have the ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder so they can respond and assist in a manner that is appropriate to the circumstances. He feels the proposed training should be administered to municipal police officers through the Police Officer Standards and Training Council who will ensure the training is designed for police officers and that the officers receive credit for the training.
The Police Officers Association Of CT supports this bill because police officers recognize people with ASD often face significant challenges in social and community settings, and many officers have family members with ASD. They support the concept of specialized training that is provided in this bill.
Susan Mercik Davis supports this bill as a mother of a child with ASD and has experienced his wandering. She is pleased the state of Connecticut is taking proactive measurements to train our emergency responders in our communities, and feels it is vital to our children's safety and for first responders to understand and be able to act appropriately in a crisis.
Michelle LeBrun-Griffin supports this bill as an amendment to section 7-294h of the general statute established in 1990 because it would allow state and local police officers and first responders the information and protocols needed to ensure the safety of young adults with Autism in a timely and efficient manner. She believes there is an urgent need to develop interventions to reduce the risk of elopement/number of autism-related wandering incidents and to train police officers who are involved with families when elopements occur.
Kelly K. Powell, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist supports this bill as a professional who specializes in working with children with ASD and their families, and as someone who is highly familiar with how and common and dangerous wandering can be. She also has personal experience working with a group of first responders (EMS) and provided a broad overview of identifying ASD symptoms and how to interact with those with ASD.
Rosanne and Robert Shea support this bill as parents of an autistic child who they would like to see found by trained police officers in dealing with children with ASD if he wanders.
Karen Linder supports this bill as a parent of a child with ASD and feels without training both young people with Autism and law enforcement professionals are at risk of tragic outcomes in stressful situations. Law enforcement agencies should train their sworn workforce.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Juliana Simone