Courses Prepare Drivers With Autism For Traffic Stops

CHICAGO (CBS) — A new programs aims to make traffic stops safe for young autistic drivers.

CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports.

A traffic stop can make your heart race. Sirens, flashing lights and verbal commands can all create sensory overload for a person with autism.

“They could freeze up. They’re going to have a lot of trouble following these commands from the officer,” said Brandon Lesch, who’s an occupational therapist at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, which is part of Northwestern Medicine.

The hospital has partnered with the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department, and offers courses to teach young people with autism how to interact with police during traffic stops.

Will Ogilvie, who is taking part in the course, said he felt it was important to participate so he could be more comfortable if such a situation ever arose.

“The deputies have been learning from this, as much as the students learning from the deputies, that’s for sure,” said undersheriff Frank Bibbiano, who’s with the DuPage County Sheriff’s Dept.

Stewart Ogilvie, Will’s father, said it was important for him to accompany his son to the course. “That way I learn what he’s learning and we can reinforce it with each other.”

“I learned that anything can happen and you should always be positive and honest with a police officer. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be nervous,” Will said.

Organizers of the program also suggest parents put their child’s special needs status in the Illinois Secretary of State’s Emergency Contact Database. This will make law enforcement immediately aware of the person’s situation.

For more information about the program at  Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, click here.

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