Training program connects police with autistic youth

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ELK GROVE, CA (KOVR/CNN) - A new police training program in California helps link autistic children with local police.

Those involved said it's a win-win situation, with the children getting more outside time, and the police getting a better understanding of autism.

Vanessa Bieker, who has a child with autism, said the training bridges a gap.

Bieker, who was Inspired by her son John, created “Fly Fit” as an opportunity for children with spectrum disorders to exercise, while getting to know the police officers in their community.

"So, if he was melting down or becoming sensory and becoming aggressive and very loud, you may perceive him in a different light other than being autistic, said Bieker"

For the kids, it’s a new level of comfort with police.

For the hopeful recruits, it’s early exposure to people with disabilities, and for the officers, it’s a lesson in recognizing the signs of autism that may come off as threatening.

"That allows them to decipher: okay this person is not under the influence of a narcotic. In fact, he or she may be on the spectrum,” said police officer Jason Jimenez.

11-year-old Devin Burrell was diagnosed last year.

His mom, Tameka Burrell is desperate for the world to give him a chance.

"Society needs to welcome them more."

With the program, Burrell found the open arms she'd been looking for

"This is my child and I love him, and I will walk to the end of the earth for him,” said Burrell. “Any child that has special needs deserves that."

The program will continue two days a week for the next five weeks.

Organizers look to expand to other police departments throughout Sacramento.

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