Police officers help teach safety skills to autistic teens, young adults

Police officers help teach safety skills to autistic teens, young adults

SAN ANTONIO -- Police officers are working to teach important safety skills to local teens and young adults with autism and other learning differences.

Hunter Gifford is 16-years old and has autism

But his mom says it's hard for people to tell sometimes.

“Because he looks like everybody else,” said Jamie Gifford. “He might not know how to react. It's a dangerous world."

Interactive training exercises organized by “Be Safe” are designed to educate others like Hunter on how to interact with police officers to improve their safety

This training also benefits the officers.

Police already receive training on how to interact with people who have autism or other intellectual disabilities.

“We go through all this in our training academy with our cadets," said Chief Williams McManus.

But these one on one interactions help officers and those in the community with autism create a mutual understanding.

“It's good for them to know what to expect when we come into contact with us,” said Officer Scott Boehm, an officer with 28 years on the force. “It makes them safer it makes us safer."

Emily Iland is one of the founders of the "Be Safe” program and has been training police officers across the country for the past decade.

She started the program because her son Tom has autism.

“We're teaching our young kids to be open about their disability rather than hide it in order for the police to do their jobs better," said Boehm.

"This part of the population is expanding,” said Gifford. “I think this could benefit anybody."

All the participants received cards like these that say I have autism or I have some other intellectual disability and what social skills it affects.

If you'd like to get your own safety card, you can mind more information at

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