Our Giving Project non-profit for April is the Autism Society of Southern Arizona.

Right now, the Autism Society is working with the Tucson Police Department to teach officers how to respond to situations in which a person may have autism.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed by and just how much they’ve embraced this training….It’s been a wonderful partnership.”

Kate Elliott, executive director of the Autism Society of Southern Arizona, is describing the partnership between her organization and the Tucson Police Department.

She says TPD Chief Chad Kasmar was very receptive to the idea that the Autism Society provide these four-hour training sessions for his officers.

“We had a grant to do the first five trainings with the officers. Then TPD found the money to finish out, to do the entire force,” says Elliott.

“They footed the bill for all of that, which was astounding and amazing,” she says. “Their commitment to it is just huge and we’re really, really grateful for them.”

Not only is Elliott committed to her work for the Autism Society, but she’s also the mother of two children with autismso she understands the importance of officers properly recognizing a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The training sessions include body camera video from departments around the state, showing examples of the movements a person with ASD might exhibit.

“They talk about, like, making the scene sensory friendlylike not overwhelming people,” Elliott explains.

“How to talk about asking questions. Being clear and concise and understanding. Finding out special interests is a way to help somebody calm down. Having a connection and how to help the autistic person if they’re elevated, they’re lost, to really make those connections with them and help clam the situation,” she says.

Elliott says the Autism Society is talking with other departments and government agencies about providing similar training for them.

For others looking for ways to support the cause, the organization is holding “All In For Autism” Day this Saturday, April 15. It’s a hands-on and fun experience for all ages, and also serves as one of the Autism Society’s biggest fundraisers.

DETAILS: All In For Autism Day

You can also support the Autism Society of Southern Arizona directly by donating to our April Giving Project.

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