Westport police preview traffic stop practice session for individuals on autism spectrum

Westport police preview traffic stop practice session for individuals on autism spectrum
Westport police will host a traffic stop practice session on Saturday morning at Sacred Heart University, presented by the Southern Connecticut State University's Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders.
They gave a preview on Thursday of what the event will look like. Organizers say a training day like this makes things go smoother for both police and occupants.
"People with autism have a sevenfold increase in legal involvement, entanglement. What we'd like them to do is feel better about their interactions with the police," says Fred Volkmar.
Drivers and passengers with ASD will learn what to do if they are involved in a traffic stop, including preparing their DMV "blue envelope" with their information and how to best communicate with them.
The event will help provide comfort to the drivers and their families.
"They were literally crying because they were so worried about letting their son or daughter out there driving the car, not knowing what would happen if they were pulled over," says Volkmar.
Westport Police Department Lt. Eric Woods says the goal is to reduce anxiety drivers might feel when it comes to interacting with law enforcement or on a traffic stop.
"It's also fantastic for the interaction that we're going to get, the insight into something like this for the officers conducting the traffic stops, it's going to be an invaluable experience for us. It allows the officer to kind of understand that he's got to go a different direction and help facilitate, so that this doesn't escalate into something that doesn't need to be," says Woods.
New for this year, parents and children with autism not old enough to drive are invited.
"They can understand that we are out there doing a job, and we don't need to be feared. When the lights go on and the sirens go on, that audible and visual clue that we get to pull over, doesn't scare somebody in the car," says Woods.
You can register for the program here.