Local non-profit hosts specialty training on autism for McAllen ISD Police Department

By: Lily Celeste

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The McAllen Independent School District Police Department is getting new training on how to interact with students with autism.

Other trainings focus on how to deal with a child's meltdown and will teach school district staff to restrain a student, but this specialty training instead hopes to calm the situation before it ever gets to that point.

Cynthia Vale is no stranger to autism. Her son was diagnosed when he was four years old.

This year, he's starting his sophomore year at McAllen ISD. Vale says her son's differences can sometimes create confusion for his teachers or school officers.

"My son is very soft-spoken, and it might be misconstrued as maybe he's just being defiant or not wanting to answer," Vale said.

McAllen ISD teachers and school officers learned a different technique to help students with autism.

"Just because they have a meltdown doesn't mean they can not learn," Bebo's Angels Board of Director Linda Gomez said.

Bebo's Angels hosted the training, and Gomez says groups are taught different ways to communicate with autistic students.

"It's really telling you how to identify them, how to interact with them as well. How can you help them? How can you help that individual calm down quicker," Gomez said.

Gomez hopes the de-escalation techniques will cut down the number of students who need to be restrained.

"We want them to learn how to deal with our children. All they want is to be educated. All they want is to be in school," Gomez said.

Mcallen ISD police department says the specialized training on autism is needed.

"The population has grown," McAllen ISD Police Department Crime Prevention Specialist Michael Avila said. "A lot of our students are diagnosed with this."

Avila says annually the department gets mental health training, but this year the focused changed.

"We've had it before, we haven't had it just as autism," Avila said. "So this one is going to be more precise to that group of individuals and students."

Bebo's Angels helped pay for the entire training through a sponsorship with Driscoll Health.

McAllen is the first school district to get the lesson, but the organization hopes others will be encouraged to sign up as well. To get in touch with Bebo's Angels, click here.


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