On August 13th, Westminster College hosted the Law Enforcement and Autism Summit sponsored by the Autism Council of Utah. Our target audience was law enforcement, we had 106 registrants.
Members from various agencies reaching as far north as Box Elder County, as far south as Provo/Orem and Cache County and Grantsville to the east and west respectively were in attendance. The program began with a brief welcome from Mr. Curtis Ryan, Vice President of Finance and Administration of Westminster College who is also a father of an adult child on the spectrum. From here, the program proceeded with a discussion on the traits and characteristics of autism then to the law enforcement perspective of the spectrum.
After the lunch break, we shared the Sahara Cares Video, Law Enforcement: Your Piece to the Autism Puzzle to start part three of the session. This part of the program also included the parent panel in which four moms were invited to share their stories and allow the audience to ask questions for a complete learning experience. I firmly believe, that this part of the program carried a great deal of power and made a huge impact on our audience. The four panelists were Cheryl Smith, Heather Cannon, Tricia Nelson and Bonnie Willford. Each individual had a few minutes to share a little about themselves, their families and their loved one with autism. In the case of Cheryl, she was able to share photos of Carson to help the audience to understand just how real the destruction a meltdown can be to property or to his person. Watching the audience and hearing the audible gasps, I could tell that this was something they learned from, gained an appreciation of and provided a greater understanding of the situation we all find ourselves in on a daily basis. The audience was engaged, provided thoughtful questions and really took a great deal from this portion of the program.
Looking back at this event, I’m very proud to have been part of this and even more, appreciative of the leadership of the Autism Council of Utah for their support and belief in what we are working to accomplish, for Westminster College for also seeing value in this program to set-aside resources to make this happen, and for our community law enforcement for being eager to learn. This combination created an outstanding day for learning and growth and allowed for greater understanding and awareness for our loved ones. I am very grateful that we have had the opportunity to support our community by sharing this message and wish to thank all of those who made this day possible.
James S. Vaughan, Families of Autism and Aspergers Standing Together (F.A.A.S.T.)