West Va. Officers Learn How to Handle People With Autism

WHEELING, W.Va. --

At Wheeling Jesuit University, a small group of officers from the area spent Wednesday learning about autism and how to approach and handle a person with autism at an emergency scene.

Speaker Dennis Debbaudt with Autism Risk & Safety Management told officers that having a basic understanding of what autism is may help thems recognize if they're dealing with a person who is autistic.

It may take officers more time to work with an autistic person and they could also display behaviors that could mislead officers.

"Some of the behaviors and characteristics of autism when observed by people that don't know the person has it, could be confused as someone who is under distress or who may be under the influence of drugs," Debbaudt said.

"It shows maybe there's some different approaches, slowing down things a little bit that can help keep the officer and the subject they're dealing with safer,” said Lt. Joe Cuchta with the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office.

Although Wednesday’s seminar was geared toward police officers, Debbaudt encouraged everyone to learn more about autism and how it affects people.

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