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| Thursday, 20 Jun 2019
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The Broward Sheriff’s office just celebrated National Autism Awareness Month in April, a time where we shine an important spotlight on the developmental disability that affects many in this country and around the world. At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, we are always working on providing special attention to individuals with special needs by instituting proactive programs and initiatives—and undergoing special training aimed at assisting this special population.

“Autism in Flight” is one such program, which provides a full airport experience in a relaxed setting for individuals about to embark on their first flight. BSO participates in many other special events, including the annual Surfers for Autism, where hundreds of children with autism and developmental delays receive the chance to surf in a safe and secure environment.

Yet BSO’s support for this community goes even further. I’m proud to have supported historic legislation proposed by special needs activists Ellen Kleinert and husband Jerry Cohn, who tirelessly worked to get the Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act passed into law. It is named after Kleinert’s autistic son and is the first of its kind in the country. The law requires a mental health expert be present during police interviews of developmentally disabled victims, witnesses or suspects. It also makes it easier for authorities to know who may need such assistance by creating a voluntary new designation on state identification cards.

Finally, I’m excited to share one of BSO’s most innovative initiatives: the BSO Special Needs Program.It gives parents or caregivers of individuals with special needs an opportunity to opt in to the program by voluntarily providing biographical information, including a description of the individual’s diagnosis and behavior, which will be captured to improve interactions with first responders.

The program will help 911 communications operators convey critical information to the responding deputy so they can respond more effectively and efficiently. The program is currently in a pilot phase but will ultimately be rolled out countywide.

If you’d like to learn more about our efforts, please visit us on our community resource page at 


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