Sascha Cordner reports at WFSU-FM:
A bill requiring autism awareness training for law enforcement officers is starting to move in both chambers of the Florida Legislature. It comes after a high profile incident that occurred in South Florida last year involving a black man, an autistic man, and law enforcement.
As the mother of an autistic daughter, [lobbyist and autism parent Susan Goldstein] says it’s important law enforcement be trained to recognize the condition.
“Just the fact that police would know what the characteristics of autism and the symptoms—the rocking, the hand flapping…these children with autism do not wear physically their disabilities as many other developmental disabilities are recognizable immediately,” added Goldstein.
That’s why she supports a bill by Rep. Evan Jenne (D-Dania Beach) and Sen. Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale).
Thurston says his bill will have a positive effect on the way law enforcement interact with many Florida children. The CDC estimates 1 in 68 kids are diagnosed with autism.
“And, what this bill does is it requires the Department of Law Enforcement to establish a constant employment training component relating to autism spectrum disorder,” said Thurston. “This constant training will count toward the continued employment of 40 hours with each department and would have specific instructions on how law enforcement responds to citizens with autism spectrum disorder for officers to be able to identify the symptoms and characteristics.”
Both the House and Senate bills recently unanimously passed their first committees.