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Mom and Former Police Officer Creates AutismTalk App to Help Police Interact With People on the Spectrum

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Less than a year ago, Stephanie Cooper started Autism Law Enforcement Response Training (ALERT), a nonprofit training program for police officers that provides officers with sensory kits designed to help autistic people. In that time, Cooper has trained more than 1,000 officers in four states. Now Cooper is taking her mission one step further through AutismTalk App — an interactive communication app that helps first responders communicate with people on the autism spectrum through picture-based messaging.

“Every first responder, from law enforcement to firefighters and [emergency medical] workers, will come in contact with someone on the autism spectrum at least once in their career,” Cooper told The Mighty. “[H]aving the AutismTalk app will allow them to communicate quickly with someone who is nonverbal or has difficulty speaking.”

AutismTalk App was inspired by Cooper’s ALERT training program. As part of the program, Cooper has individuals on the autism spectrum attend the seminars and assist in training first responders. “During all of my autism training classes I would show first responders and law enforcement officers the communication apps our children with autism use,” Cooper said. “In every autism training class I have taught, I have had numerous law-enforcement officers and first responders ask the same question, ‘Why isn’t there an app for us?’”

Photo of body figures from the app.

According to Cooper, AutismTalk App is the first app of its kind. The app includes picture communication boards with categories for law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS) as well as several other interactive features such as body models that allow you to tap and show a first responder where you are hurt or injured, a police sketch tool that allows you to select a perpetrator’s facial features and body type and a universal pain chart.

“This app is important to me as a parent that has a child on the autism spectrum because if something were to happen to me whether it be a car wreck, I am injured and I am unable to speak for my son, that first responders will be able to understand and have that extra tool which will allow them to communicate quickly with my son or another child or adult who is nonverbal or has difficulty speaking,” Cooper said.

AutismTalk App costs $8.99 and is available for iOS and Android. A third of the app’s proceeds will be donated to ALERT to provide more training for first responders.

Originally published: June 26, 2017
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