Lake Wales Police Partner With Wallet Card Project to Help Protect Those With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Program Designed to Avoid Misunderstandings Between Police, Citizens
Last updated 1/20/2024 at 9:52am
Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder may be at special risk as they move about in the community, and the Lake Wales Police Department is reaching out in an effort to encourage individuals with ASD to obtain a free Wallet Card.
The Wallet Card Project facilitates effective communication between law enforcement and persons with disabilities to avoid any misunderstandings. In addition to being a valuable resource for residents, the local department will also receive training on The Wallet Card and ASD.
"We chose to partner with the Wallet Card Project to educate people living with ASD, their caretakers and our officers about this resource," said Deputy Chief Troy Schulze. "We also wanted to further educate our officers on how they might better handle interactions with people living with ASD."
"Wallet Cards can help someone who may have a problem communicating," Schulze added. "At the same time, it can also give an officer a better understanding of the person they have encountered. Although this may not be a fit for every person or situation, we know it's a step in the right direction."
The Wallet Card is a free resource available for teens and adults with ASD. The card helps individuals communicate clearly with law enforcement and includes information such as the person's name, disability, emergency contact and any specific triggers.
The Wallet Card may be requested for free online at http://www.justdigit.org/wallet-cards. In addition, individuals applying for the card can watch a short video (closed captioning available) that explains how to use the card and provides tips on how to safely interact with law enforcement.
Schulze said that according to the CDC, the number of people living with ASD is increasing and the department was excited to be proactively engaging their community.
According to the Mayo Clinic, "A child or adult with autism spectrum disorder may have problems with social interaction and communication skills, including any of these signs:
• Fails to respond to his or her name or appears not to hear you at times
• Resists cuddling and holding, and seems to prefer playing alone, retreating into his or her own world
• Has poor eye contact and lacks facial expression
• Doesn't speak or has delayed speech, or loses previous ability to say words or sentences
• Can't start a conversation or keep one going, or only starts one to make requests or label items
• Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm and may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
• Repeats words or phrases verbatim, but doesn't understand how to use them
• Doesn't appear to understand simple questions or directions
• Doesn't express emotions or feelings and appears unaware of others' feelings
• Doesn't point at or bring objects to share interest
• Inappropriately approaches a social interaction by being passive, aggressive or disruptive
• Has difficulty recognizing nonverbal cues, such as interpreting other people's facial expressions, body postures or tone of voice
Any of the above might easily be mis-interpreted by law enforcement as a lack of cooperation or even potential hostility. The Wallet Card Project aims to minimize that possibility.
About the Wallet Card Project: The Wallet Card Project was developed through a partnership between Disability Independence Group Inc., the Coral Gables Police Department and UM-NSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. The project is being employed by other law enforcement agencies throughout the country. For more information please visit the organizations' website at JustDigIt.org.