AUBURN, Ind. (WANE) – His wife has been a special education teacher for about a decade, but the issues facing those in that community really hit home for Auburn Police Officer Kyle Woods last summer.
That’s when doctors diagnosed his youngest son, 4-year-old Lincoln, with autism.
“We had two kids before him, and there were no issues. But with Lincoln, it was kind of like, ‘Crap, how can we help him,” Woods said.
Researching ways to help his boy led to Woods and his wife helping his department.
Wednesday, Auburn Police announced that – thanks to a push from the Woods family and a grant from the Indiana Autism Society – all officers will be carrying special picture boards in their patrol vehicles that will help them connect with those who have limited English or verbal skills or mental health issues that make communication difficult.
Auburn fire fighters and emergency responders will also have these boards, police said.
The boards came about after Woods’ wife, Jessica, contacted the Autism Society of Indiana about what they could do to help others. Kristie Brown Lofland, the society’s executive board president, responded almost immediately and told them about the boards, according to Woods.
“They’re almost like a pictograph,” Woods said. “They show pictures, for instance, of an ambulance, so you can say you are calling an ambulance. Or they show a picture of knee so someone can say their knee hurts. We can show them that we are going to the police station or we are going to a police car.”
Woods said Auburn Police Chief Cory Heffelfinger was on board after being approached about the boards, and the department was able to get about 30 of them with the grant from the autism society.
Researching about autism to help his son – who Woods said is just like any other child though he may be slower in responding to things – has also helped him on the force.
“I think with me personally, it has slowed my approach in dealing with certain types of people,” Woods said. “For me, with this first hand experience, I may be able to pick up on stuff that maybe is a little subtle, that other officers might not notice at first.”
The Autism Society of Indiana’s goal is to to provide these communication boards to every law enforcement and first responder agency in Indiana, according to it’s website.