Dennis Debbaudt's son was fussing on the floor of a toy store. People were staring. Debbaudt carried him out crying.
But as he buckled him in to his car seat, Debbaudt was surrounded by mall security officers. They were responding to a report that someone in the store had made about a possible child abduction, and when they quizzed Debbaudt's son, the boy grew even more upset. He was autistic, and what little speaking skills he had were buried by tears.
Debbaudt didn't fault the shopper for alerting security, but the experience, which occurred years ago, piqued his interested in how law enforcement interacts with people who have autism. Now Debbaudt, an author and trainer of law enforcement officers, said he focuses on helping them learn how best to respond to people with autism.
Next month, he will lead a four-hour training class in San Marcos on autism recognition and response for law officers, other first responders and anyone else in the community who is interested.
The training is a statewide initiative of the Texas Autism Research and Resource Center, a project of the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which is sponsoring the class, department spokeswoman Cecilia Cavuto said.