Ten One article - Preparation “invaluable” in helping autistic boy

Ten One New Zealand Police’s Online Magazine printed the following article in September 2012.

An autistic boy with a tendency to go missing was the genesis of a successful training package on dealing with people on the autistic spectrum.

The Greymouth boy went missing for three hours earlier this year, leading to an extensive search and causing his parents terrible stress.

Senior Sergeant Ally Ealam, Officer in Charge at Greymouth Station, had met with a Special Education Advisor from the Ministry of Education to discuss the boy’s risk before he went missing.

“We requested a one-page profile so we could have it at the ready if we ever had to deal with him,” says Ally. “When we located him he displayed some of the behaviours listed on the profile - we relied on it to know how to respond to him.”

Despite its happy ending, the incident had an effect on staff, she says. “We wanted this little chap found safe, just like his family. The last thing I want is for those who don’t know about these disabilities to end up using OC spray, Taser or over-restraining.”

An hour-long training package was put together and presented to Greymouth staff by Special Education Advisors Jo Dowell and Jason Johnson last month. General Duties staff were required to attend.

Staff learned about the nature of autism, how life is for people with the disability, how to develop specific strategies for autistic individuals and techniques for escalation and de-escalation before, during and after restraint.

The information was invaluable, says Ally, and feedback has been very positive.

West Coast staff flank Senior Sergeant Ally Ealam (centre) and the Special Education Advisors.

“I realise there are all sorts of disabilities and it’s hard to know where we start and stop. I feel these people are unique individuals who deserve the opportunity to be understood and we deserve the opportunity to understand.”

The package has been picked up by Tasman District and is available to other districts.
Greymouth intends to prepare more profiles as necessary and link them into the National Intelligence Application (NIA), so information can be quickly accessed from anywhere.

To view this article on the Ten One website please visit the following link: www.tenone.police.govt.nz/tenone/September12News4.htm