April was Autism Awareness Month in Tennessee and the Murfreesboro Police Department is one of the first departments in the state to deliver autism awareness training to its officers. Little did Officer Terry Spence know that, shortly after his training, he would need to put what he learned into practice.
In a story published on April 24, 2021, Officer Terry Spence pulled over a distracted driver. Nashville News 4 tells the story.
MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) – You’re running to the store when that addictive ding chimes on your cellphone.
Someone’s sent you a video.
Like many of us, this happened to Murfreesboro mom Selena Carlton, as she was heading to Home Depot with her son Isaiah, who has autism.
She played Isaiah the video message while driving — and was caught in the act. Murfreesboro Police pulled Carlton over and gave her a ticket.
It’s what happened next that got News4 to reach out and hear the story.
Selena said Isaiah began to get agitated.
“It kinda scared him. He thought I was in trouble,” she said. “He was kinda scared of the policemen a little bit — and I was trying to talk to him and tell him everything was OK — he was just doing his job.”
Selena asked Officer Terry Spence if he would talk to Isaiah to help calm him down. That’s when Officer Spence took some special training to heart.
“He knelt down beside the window, talked to Isaiah, asked him his name said, ‘That’s a Bible name.’ And he said yes,” Selena said. “He brought him a badge to put on his shirt and he said, ‘You and I are going to be on patrol this afternoon.'”
Officer Spence then offered to take a photo with Isaiah and the two posed to capture the special moment.
April is Autism Acceptance Month in Tennessee, and the Murfreesboro Police Department is one of the first departments in the state to provide autism training for officers.https://t.co/6nwQjAVRmc
— Murfreesboro TN Police Department (@MboroPoliceDept) April 21, 2021
Officer Terry explained he’d been trained on how to de-escalate situations involving people with special needs.
“It’s actually super important because Isaiah and some of the kids that have autism that are like him really struggle with behavioral issues and their emotions and regulating those. Sometimes as they get bigger and things get out of hand with them, there may be police involvement where they have to calm a situation and handle it,” Selena said.
Selena says she’s relieved police receive that special training. She’s now calling Officer Terry a “model police officer” for his kindness and patience during the traffic stop.
For a little more about Murfreesboro Police Department’s autism training, please watch this short video.