Norwood aims to reduce stress of police encounters for people with autism, Alzheimer's disease

NORWOOD, Ohio -- From lights and sirens to loud radios, encounters with police can be distressing for people with autism spectrum disorders and Alzheimer's disease.

Norwood's police chief said he hopes a new program will make those encounters a bit less stressful.

NICE, or Norwood Identifies Citizen Encounters, is a way for people to share information with police about the specific needs of their loved ones.

"It'll be information such as triggers, or if they’re afraid of sirens, or places they’re attracted to like water or wooded areas, just so that officers can have the information before they respond that'll maybe able to help them resolve the issue safety and successfully,” Chief William Kramer said.

Experts say people with autism can have trouble communicating, meaning they might not be able to tell police what they're thinking and feeling.

"People who have autism have some anxiety as well, and so if things are out of the routine, or there could be loud noises or something happening it could be very upsetting to them," said Dr. Julia Anixt, director of the Kelly O'Leary Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Kramer said the NICE program will start small but could eventually expand to include people with Down syndrome.

"Information is power, and any time an officer has more information, the better chance he has to resolve that situation successfully," Kramer said.

NICE is based on a similar program in Colerain Township. Families there have been happy with the program, Kramer said.

"In fact, they said that they’ve actually had families move into the community because of the program," he said.

People interested in participating in this program or learning more can attend Norwood's First Responder's Night at the lower level of Waterworks on July 19 between 6 and 9 p.m. Anyone with questions before then can contact Kramer at 513-458-4523.

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