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Fla. sheriff launches autism-awareness decal, registration program to alert responders

Sheriff Grady Judd, whose grandson has autism, says the program will help deputies have better interactions with people who may be on the autism spectrum

By Suzie Ziegler

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — A new program with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office aims to improve interactions between deputies and people on the autism spectrum, News Channel 8 reported.

The sheriff’s office is providing citizens with decals for their homes and vehicles that read, “Possible Occupant with Autism.” Citizens can also register online to add that information to the dispatch system, according to the report.

Sheriff Grady Judd says this will be a big help for deputies.

“Then the deputy responding who has training already knows that we’re dealing with someone that may be on the autism spectrum. We think that’s very important,” Judd said.

Judd says the idea first came from a local mother whose son was pulled over by a deputy.

“He was scared and didn’t react appropriately, didn’t communicate appropriately,” Judd said.

Judd’s grandson has autism, so for the sheriff, it’s personal.

“[He’s] the most wonderful, kind, gentle, smart, intelligent person that I’ve ever met. But you need to know that things upset him that may not upset the child without autism,” Judd said.

Kerry Magro, an autism advocate, has trained police officers on how to interact with people on the spectrum.

“Be concise when you’re giving a command. It’s really, really important to be concise,” Magro advises. “It’s also important that first responders really focus on keeping their tone at a monotone level.”

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