NYPD Gets Training in Autism Recognition and Response
Dennis Debbaudt and David Legacy produce training video on behalf of ASA’s Safe and Sound rogram
To say that first-responder training for autism is a personal issue for Jim Holohan is putting it lightly. The retired NYPD captain has a teenage son with Asperger’s, and his efforts helped bring that training to the largest police department in the world.
“When my son was first diagnosed at the age of 5, I knew zero about autism,” Holohan said. “New York police come into contact with someone on the spectrum at least once every day and have no idea about it. Training is absolutely essential and it’s never been done before.”
Holohan made contact with first-responder training expert Dennis Debbaudt after he presented to a local New York autism and Asperger’s group. The retired captain brought Debbaudt’s work to the attention of NYPD training commissioners, and Debbaudt and award-winning videographer, editor and producer David Legacy established a seven-minute training video for the department on behalf of ASA’s Safe and Sound Program.
“We got a heck of a lot in seven minutes, that’s for sure,” Debbaudt said. “I’m just happy that through ASA we were able to get NYPD the most top-quality program designed for their needs with the best materials available.”
The instructional video was presented to a group of training officers on February 29; participants then went back to train the officers under their command. As a result of this one short training session, approximately 25,000 members of the New York Police Department will receive a background in interacting with individuals on the autism spectrum.
“ASA is honored to be a part of this historic endeavor,” said ASA President and CEO Lee Grossman, who attended the February training. “Thanks to the efforts of these dedicated advocates, the biggest police department of the world will now be able to learn more about autism and the special challenges facing children and adults on the spectrum.”
Future training sessions are still in the works. The program is easily adaptable, and Debbaudt hopes to replicate it elsewhere.
“It’s kind of like a dream come true, to know that people like my son may get treated with more dignity and respect that they deserve when they have an encounter with members of law enforcement,” Holohan said.