LEE CO., GA (WALB) - First responders from across Southwest Georgia are in Lee County this week, learning autism response training directly from citizens with autism.
Fire, EMS and police officers took part in the Tuesday afternoon session led by the founder of 'Autism Law Enforcement Response Training' or ALERT.
Stephanie Cooper is a Florida mother of a 9-year-old with autism and she is also a former New Orleans law enforcement officer.
Cooper started the one-on-one training several years ago after seeing a need for officers to learn autistic cues and best response practices.
Several children and adults with autism were part of the training.
Even long-time law enforcement officers said they learned a lot.
"Being able to approach that person in a different way, and knowing how, if they are loud, or if they are not responding to my loud talking, that I need to speak calmly. Or, touching them. If they don't want to be touched, they are going to let you know they don't want to be touched, they will pull away from you," said Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachals.
Every officer got an ALERT tool kit, with a non-verbal response card and items that can assist an officer during interactions with people who have autism.
The training will run through Thursday.
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