Keeping people with autism safe

6:38 PM, May 29, 2013   |    comments
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YORK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Dozens of police departments and other law enforcement agencies around the state are handling calls involving people with developmental disabilities very differently than they did in the past.

Hundreds of first responders have undergone special training on how to better deal with people with neurological problems, such as autism.

48-year-old Kevin Bardier works at the Stage Neck Inn in all areas of the kitchen, from washing dishes to taking inventory.

His job means everything to him. It's helped him make friends and provided structure and stability for 27 years. Kevin is autistic. He grew up at a time when autism was extremely rare.

'We didn't have much help then, in those days it was long time ago it was hard, said his mother, Trudy Parkhurst.

She raised Kevin as a single mom. Kevin was able to get his GED and his driver's license -- both have helped him live independently. He only drives during the day time, he says being pulled over is definitely a concern.

'I did kind of wonder what would happen if something ever did happen, but I am so careful,' said Kevin Bardier.

Two summers ago, someone saw Kevin driving erratically and contacted police.

When police ran Kevin's plates it came up flagged in red identifying him as someone who has Autism. After following him home, the officer discovered that Kevin was adjusting his radio when he went over the center line a couple of times.

'If we were to put on the blue lights and sirens and he kept going and he's taking off, now automatically the procedure is you call for back up, other units are responding at high rates of speed, you put the public in jeopardy all when it could have been prevented,' said Captain Kevin LeConte.

The York police department started it's registration program after Capt. Kevin LeConte and several officers attended a training session, on how to handle calls involving people with developmental disabilities, like autism.

Kevin is one of 36 registered in the York police department's data base, but police believe that number only scratches the surface and that dozens and dozens of folks need to be registered. Police believe part of the problem is that some parents perceive there is a stigma attached to the disability.

'In law enforcement we still struggle with that. The more information we have when we go into a call the safer it is for everybody,' said LeConte.

Tools that Kevin and his family are grateful for.
'Makes me feel darn good about it, I am very pleased. Do you sleep better at night? Yes?

Registartion forms are available on the Maine Autism Society website:



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