Methuen Police Work to Better Serve Those with Autism

Methuen Police Sgt. Joseph Aiello conducts a program, training police and dispatchers who to respond to calls involving a person with an autism spectrum disorder. (Courtesy photograph.)

All Methuen police officers and civilian dispatchers were trained during January on how to respond to calls involving a person with an autism spectrum disorder.

The training, conducted by Sgt. Joseph Aiello, centered on how to identify someone with a spectrum disorder and better serve the person, said Mayor Stephen Zanni and Chief Joseph E. Solomon.

“I am proud of the entire department for taking the time to complete this program,” Zanni said. “Training our police department on interacting with residents who have a spectrum disorder is important to be sure that we are able to effectively communicate with a potentially vulnerable population in our city.”

According to the National Health Institute of Mental Health, autism spectrum disorder includes a wide range of symptoms, skills and levels of disability. Many people on the spectrum may exhibit symptoms including difficulty communicating and interacting with others and repetitive behaviors, as well as limited interests or activities. In Methuen, approximately 400 families have a family member who has a form of the disorder.

“The large percentage of residents in Methuen who live with some form of ASD make it very likely that officers may encounter a person with autism spectrum disorder,” Solomon said. “The more educated we can be on this matter, the more we can ensure that we are providing the highest level of service to our community.”

After completing the training, officers were given a laminated card to assist them in communicating with people who those who are non-verbal.

Residents who have family members that suffer from a spectrum disorder may visit the Methuen Police Department’s website and download a form to fill out and turn into the police department. This information will be entered into the department’s system to help officers identify and effectively assist those in need.