Recently , in December 2014, South Haven Police Department received a call about an 11 yr old boy with autism, who was reported as out of control and had walked away from his home. Police Chief Tom Martin had attended two AAoM Autism Safety trainings and immediately tuned to his radio to listen to the call dispatch. The 911 center put the call out as a child out of control, who had walked away, but did not mention autism. Chief Martin, having learned that persons with autism are drawn to water and that those situations many times leads to drowning, immediately phoned his Sergeant. Chief Martin told the Sergeant to go to the Lake Michigan shore line to check for the child. Within minutes the Sergeant located the child at the end of the pier. The child was located before the another South Haven Police Officer could make it to the child’s residence to talk to the parents.
Later, the Sergeant asked Chief Martin how he knew to check the lake shore. Chief Martin told the Sergeant about AAoM’s Autism Safety Trainings which had been sponsored by Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority and Barry County Community Mental Health Agency.
Chief Martin’s quick actions and knowledge of dangerous wandering that too frequently occurs in the autism community, saved the life of the boy and avoided a terrible tragedy. AAoM commends Chief Martin for his quick actions and follow through on this call. We are pleased to report Chief Martin is in the process of planning four additional AAoM Autism Safety Trainings for his staff.