It’s something one lawmaker at the Capitol has been passionate about for years.
Now Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara’s Autism Action Plan is moving forward.
Inside the Capitol, the very first meeting of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Advisory Board is underway.
That group of people will help come up with a plan that will best help those with autism across the state.
Santabarbara has made his passion for helping those with autism widely known. His son Michael falls on the spectrum.
“As he gets older now we begin to see the challenges and one of the challenges is he struggles with communication.”
He has two pieces of legislation currently on the table. One that would give ID cards to those on the spectrum explaining their disorder, and another that would train emergency first responders how to identify and interact with someone with autism.
Santabarbara says this body cam video out of Arizona is a prime example of why these bills are necessary.
In the video, you can see the officer approach the autistic teen and ask what he’s doing but the interaction escalated from there.
Santabarbara says stimming is some movement that calms a person on the spectrum and can be mistaken by law enforcement.
“If he does get stressed, he’ll shake it like this and he does it much faster and harder than I do.”
Retired police captain John Cooney says more training is absolutely needed.
“We have to be trained in what to look for and how to know that this is not someone defying you and challenging you.”
He’s read over the proposed legislation and says he wants the training to go into effect as soon as possible.
“Autism is something we need to know about just as much as we need to know how to safely carry and discharge our firearm.”
Santabarbara says those bills getting passed and this advisory committee are the first step in the right direction.
“There’s no downside to understanding each other and understanding what’s going on.”
Santabarbara says something like a simple ID card and this training could have stopped a situation like you saw in that video.
The board will have a report to distribute to lawmakers before the start of the session.