MIAMI (CBSMiami) – April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, and the Miami-Dade Police Department is committed to training its police officers to recognize the signs and symptoms of Autism in order to effectively communicate with people who have the developmental disability.

On Friday, the department announced the launch of its ambitious Autism and Sensory training sessions to every member of the police department by 2023.

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The trainings, being conducted in partnership with the University of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD), will take place every month and include about 120 officers, until every officer is trained.

The trainings provide an overview of Autism, personal stories, case studies, key terms, and behaviors to look out for, de-escalation techniques, and roll playing — all in an effort to provide officers with the tools, knowledge, and empathy they need to confidently manage situations involving community members with autism, sensory issues, or related disabilities.

The department has already completed its first training session, which had 120 officers take part over three days.

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The program is a result of Miami-Dade District 7 Commissioner Raquel Regalado’s resolution which passed in 2021 to train staff at all Miami Dade County public offices and spaces, in which the police department was included.

(CBS4)

The Department already has an “Autism Awareness” vehicle, which features a motif of solid red, blue, yellow, and green puzzle shapes, and initialed handprints of 28 autistic children of Department employees.

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder face social challenges, and their behavioral symptoms could lead to misunderstandings. They may have trouble relating to others, or appear to be unaware when people talk to them.  It’s behavior that to the untrained eye may be misinterpreted as non-compliance or resistance.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Autism affects about one in 54 children in the U.S.