AUBURN — In an emergency situation, seconds can make all the difference.
The Auburn Police Department has a new tool to help communicate with people with autism, who can’t speak or other language barrier situations.
It’s a subject that hits close to home for Kyle Woods, a member of the Auburn Police Department for the past two years.
“What inspired me to start it was my youngest son was diagnosed with autism last summer,” Woods said. “It’s been something I’ve been trying to become more knowledgeable about for myself.
“I saw a gap in our department to help provide services and communication with individuals who can relate to my son and as well as others who have some sort of other disability, whether it’s speech, hearing or something like that.”
Woods’ wife, Jessica, who is a special education teacher in Noble County, follows multiple autism and special education groups and found a sheriff’s department that had the card and a state autism organization has made information cards available to emergency responders.
The large, full-color, double-sided board contains answers and pictures to questions police officers ask in an emergency situation. In a traffic accident, for example, “We can ask if you’re hurt you can point to a picture which represents an injury — an arm that’s hurt or a foot that’s hurt.
“We can ask different questions about where they need to go, yes or no … it’s a graphic representation of answers to some of our questions,” Woods explained.
Through a grant provided by the Autism Society of America and private donations, the Autism Society of Indiana purchased the picture communication boards for placement in Auburn Police Department vehicles.
All participants received a training video on how to implement the boards.
“This is going to be able to help us communicate with several individuals,” Woods said. “We had officers dealt with a woman who had lost the ability to speak, and the entire conversation was done over a note pad.
“If it had been a serious medical emergency, it would have cost time to help that person.
“We’ve had an influx of individuals who can’t communicate very well with English, it will give us a picture that we can try to communicate better with them as well.”
The Woods family has used similar methods to communicate with their son in the home.
“The biggest thing I want is to spread awareness to those children and individuals in our community that have special needs and require different types of assistance,” Woods said. “We’re trying to bridge the gap with communication, education and adaptability.”