Chicopee Police Department spearheads Autism Awareness response program

April is Autism Acceptance Month dedicated to respecting the rights and humanity of people with developmental disabilities.
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 9:31 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHICOPEE, MA. (WGGB/WSHM) - April is Autism Acceptance Month dedicated to respecting the rights and humanity of people with developmental disabilities.

Western Mass News stopped by the Chicopee Police Department to find out how they are acknowledging the month and improving their response procedures when working with autistic people.

“The more that you educate the more that you’re aware the more that you accept,” said Sgt. Lyman.

Education, awareness, acceptance. These are the goals of the Chicopee Police Department’s Autism Response program. Sgt. Missy Lyman explained why their procedures are essential.

“We keep pushing this program because the diagnosis is now one in 36 individuals will be diagnosed with autism,” said Sgt. Lyman. “So, with that being said, we will have more of a chance of running into individuals who are on the autism spectrum.”

It includes a database filled with voluntarily offered information on those with autism in the city.

“They fill out a form which ultimately lets the police department and the fire department know of the person at that address has autism,” said Sgt. Lyman. “It gives us their name, date of birth, height, weight, features that would describe that individual person if they were ever to go missing. If they have any sensory issues if they are verbal or nonverbal.”

Sgt. Lyman told Western Mass News this program helps first responders answer calls appropriately. “Say a call comes in for a certain address and a resident there is autistic, it comes up on our screen as an autism response, so it gives the officer a heads up responding to the call that the person may have sensory issues may have a hard time dealing with the bright lights of the cruiser lights, may have a hard time with the sirens and what behaviors they may be showing,” said Sgt. Lyman.

Each police cruiser is stocked with supplies to help.

“We also have a communication card, in our cruiser for individuals who are nonverbal, and we have a sensory bag which is filled with a bunch of different fidget toys to help somebody calm down in the case that they are in the middle of a meltdown,” said Sgt. Lyman.

During the month of April, officers are sporting these colorful patches. The Chicopee Police Association will be selling the for $10. Half of the proceeds collected will be donated to Sunshine Village, a local organization dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities.

Local police told us interest in the program is growing and they’re going over formalities with other departments.

The Chicopee Police Department is hosting a free autism for law enforcement training on April 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Chicopee Public Safety Training Center on Court Street. To register, email