Quincy police raise awareness about autism
The Patriot Ledger - 3/16/2020
QUINCY -- For police officers Ken Wood and Joe Nabstedt, autism is an everyday part of life.
Both officers have sons on the autism spectrum, and now their department is working to help raise money and spread awareness of the developmental disorder that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates affects one in 59 children in the U.S.
The Quincy Police Department is selling $10 autism awareness patches and clothes online to raise money for charity, and officers will be allowed to wear the patches on their uniforms during April, which is Autism Awareness Month.
Want news like this sent straight to your inbox? Head over to PatriotLedger.com to sign up for alerts and make sure you never miss a thing. You pick the news you want, we deliver."It makes us proud that the department's recognizing the struggle that we're going through, and that our kids are going through," Nabstedt said. "I just think anything that helps people with autism interact more in the community is a good thing, instead of back in the days when people were hidden behind doors, and in separate classrooms. It's good to have people working together in the same community."
Quincy joins several other police departments with similar patches such as Cohasset, Randolph and Braintree.
Nabstedt has two sons with autism, a 19-year-old and 14-year-old, and said awareness of the issue has improved a lot since his first son was born, with more people learning what autism is.
"The resources for kids in the schools has gotten better, but also the resources of the police department, our training, has gotten better," Nabstedt said. "Just the overall inclusion of kids (with autism) in the community, and the schools, and development programs for them has gotten better."
Wood said raising awareness helps build community support for families whose children have autism, like his 14-year-old son.
"It was isolating having a child on the spectrum because there weren't a lot of people that you could talk to," Wood said. "There are certain things that we have to do that's different than other families. When we go to the movies, we've got to make sure we're away from everyone. (My son) has his headphones. And if we go out to dinner, we've got to make sure it's a nice quiet restaurant, stuff like that. It's almost like a chess game."
Wood said he was lucky to find a community on the police force where several officers also have children with autism – in particular, police officer Roger White, who has worked with the Autism and Law Enforcement Education Coalition. The coalition works to educate first responders on how to deal with people with autism who might behave differently in an emergency.
Nabstedt said, "For me, kids, they don't stay little kids forever. They grow up, and they have to live in the society with everybody. It's not just the kids learning to live in society but society has to learn to live with them, and they have to learn that they might have some quirks, but they're just regular people and doing their thing."
Wood said his wife, Sarah Wood, has also been an advocate for autism awareness, talking to city leaders as Quincy plans to build a special education center.
The police department has autism seat belt covers, donated by Norfolk County Sheriff Jerry McDermott, that notify first responders that the wearer has autism. The covers, which people can pick up for free, state: "I Have Autism. I May Resist Help."
Quincy's patches and clothes can be purchased online. The patches can also be purchased by sending a $10 check or money order to Quincy Police Department, attention: Sgt. Karyn Barkas, 1 Sea St., Quincy, MA 02169 with an enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope. The check or money order should be made payable to the Quincy Police Patrol Officers Association.
All proceeds from the sales of the patches will go to an autism nonprofit that police are in the process of choosing.
Reporter Joe Difazio can be reached at email@example.com.
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