Chesterfield mom strives to increase safety for people with autism

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — As more autistic adults are diagnosed, there is a growing danger of law enforcement misunderstanding their behavior.

One mother in Chesterfield County is working to make the world safer for those living with the intellectual disability. Pam Mines is working with Richmond police to plan a series of training programs that teach kids how to appropriately interact with officers.

Conversely, officers will gain insight on indicators of autism when approaching individuals. Flashing lights, loud sirens and radio static can trigger unexpected behavior for those on the autism spectrum.

“There will be some behaviors that are a little different,” Mines told 8News. “They may not comply, they may misinterpret the directions, make sudden movements, and law enforcement has to consider that.”

Sergeant Tim Sutton with the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office has traveled the nation consulting with fellow officers autism and other cognitive disabilities.

“What we need to do is train officers to be able to pick up on these behaviors and hopefully realize, ‘okay, that individual may not be on drugs or alcohol,” he told 8News Reporter Matthew McClellan. “This may actually be that autism or special need that I’ve heard about.”

Mines and her family were behind the 2014 Virginia legislation that came to be known as JP’s Law, named after her 12-year-old son. The law allows individuals to voluntarily add an innocuous number/code to special Virginia DMV issued driver’s licenses and/or identification cards noting they have Autism or an Intellectual Disability.

This helps law enforcement be more aware of an individual’s diagnosis and they can better respond to their unique abilities and limitations. Mines says the training program with Richmond Police is being planned for October. Check back here for details.Find 8News on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.

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