Herriman Police Department receives training on how to interact with people with autismJun 15, 2021 01:04PM ● By Justin Adams
The Herriman Police Department was joined by Natalie Castro and her sister Angie for a special training about best practices for interacting with individuals with autism. (Courtesy of Herriman PD)
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
April happens to be Autism Awareness Month, but that’s not why the Herriman Police Department received special training on how to improve interactions with individuals with autism. Nor was it because the Utah legislature recently passed HB334, which requires law enforcement agencies to undergo such training.
“We had already been looking to bring Natalie Castro to the department for a while,” said Operations Division Commander Zachary Adams. “It just so happened to fall within Autism Awareness Month.”
Castro is the founder of Pieces of Inspiration, an organization that promotes home design standards that are conscious of the unique needs of those with autism. She previously operated a Pediatric Therapy office, also with an emphasis on helping families of individuals with autism. Part of that included developing a training program for law enforcement agencies.
“I think it’s just having the police officers understand the perspective of the person, and helping them to connect with them,” Castro told the Herriman Journal. “Being able to help [the officers] understand their thinking process, or how they can be overstimulated by sensory things like light or touch.”
Castro’s passion for raising awareness about autism comes from her relationship with her own sister, Angie, who has autism.
“She and I had a lot of interactions with law enforcement when she was little,” Castro said about what inspired her to design the training programs.
Castro spent three hours with members of the Herriman Police Department, training them how to recognize a person with autism, as well as how to best interact with them. Adams said that it was a very effective training for his fellow officers.
“When we get there, we have a better idea of understanding how to identify if a person has autism,” he said. “If they have an object that helps them focus, it’s important that we don’t interfere with that, that we give them space.”
The police department is now looking to expand on that training by searching for opportunities for its officers to interact with individuals with autism in a casual setting so they can continue to develop their awareness and sensitivity.
The training is part of a broader effort by the department to adopt progressive policies and procedures to ensure that they serve and protect all of Herriman’s residents (as well as to avoid becoming the face of a tragedy like other departments around the country in the past year).
“I think we’re always looking for ways to improve our interactions with our community. That includes all members in our community,” Adams said.