New sensory kits designed to help Michigan police officers approach people with autism

Each department has different items in their kits

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April is Autism Awareness Month and one of the groups educating themselves on the subject is law enforcement.

Several Michigan police officers have a new tool to help them interact with people with autism.

Northville Township police patrol cars will not be equipped with sensory kits for when officers encounter with autism. The idea has spread to other agencies across the state.

“We wanted to give back to the community more than we already do now to go above and beyond for the special needs community as well,” said Officer Andrew Domzalski with the Northville Township Police Department.

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Domzalski came up with the idea last month and his plan was put into action beginning April 1.

“Having family, friends, loved ones, they’re on the spectrum as well and we have employees here too. It was near and dear to our hearts,” he said.

Officer Alison Shank with the Ferndale Police Department, understands why the kit is needed. Her 10-year-old son Collin, who was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old, is the most important person in her life.

“He is funny, he’s obsessed with music. He can play the cello, the piano, the guitar,” Shank said. “Autism is a neurological disorder, which just means that a child, a person with autism, their brains were created differently.”

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The officers are trained to recognize someone with autism, and the sensory kits come with different items to help when police approach them. Multiple agencies across Michigan have included the kits in the patrol cars, including Northville Township, Ferndale, Troy and Michigan State Police.

“We’re coming together as a unified approach with this initiative, which I think speaks volumes about how law enforcement is trying to collaborate together to go above and beyond for the communities they serve,” Domzalski said.

Each department’s sensory kit includes different items. They even pass out stickers for residents to put in their vehicle window.