Autism awareness event held to train police officers, community

Educational video shown to audience

SAN ANTONIO – A community safety event held Saturday morning in San Antonio featured people with autism and city police officers teaching one another the safest way to interact.

One of the featured speakers was an autism advocate who also has autism. His experience led to the production of a video specifically designed to train the ins and outs of navigating autism for both police and people with autism.

Tom Inland was diagnosed with the condition as a teenager. While learning to drive, he was pulled over and reached for his wallet, where he carries a card proving he has autism.

"The police quickly said, ‘Put your hands on the steering wheel where I can see them, sir,’” Inland said.

Inland was lucky. His mom was the Autism Society of Los Angeles president, so he knew what to do. But in South Florida last month, an autistic teen’s caregiver was shot by police.

"The officer that fired the firearm was aiming for the kid with the disability, but hit the caregiver instead,” Inland said.

The case underscores how communication is critical where autism and policing intersect.

“Young people have to know to stay where they are, put their hands where the officers can see them, obey the instructions right away and make the officers jobs a lot easier,” Inland said.

To get the message across, not just in Los Angeles where Inland’s mother trained 5,000 police officers, but also through the nation, an educational video, created by Inland’s mother and called “Be Safe,” was shown to the community and is shown to many others across the nation.The Alamo Area Council of Governments and the Autism Society of Central Texas sponsored the free interactive screening of the video in San Antonio.

Link to "Be Safe" video