Help comes for those who can’t speak

first_imgSANTA CLARITA – About 20 family members fanned out in the Saugus neighborhood after the holiday dinner, anxiously searching for the autistic 5-year-old who had slipped out of his home unnoticed. Bradley’s mom sobbed hysterically, knocking on door after door, as the child slid inside a stranger’s car. The benign strangers called 911, and the boy’s frantic mom arrived in time to be chastised by sheriff’s deputies who were unprepared to consider the special circumstances they faced. “Any chance he can, if a door is open he will try to sneak by. He has no sense of fears, he will go into the middle of the street. He doesn’t know cars will hit him,” said Michelle Hopkins of her son, who runs, not walks out the door. “(The deputies) were very rude, cold, so quick to attack me, making me feel like I was a horrible mother.” Young people are not the only ones who will benefit. “The biggest problem is identifying people we come in contact with if they are unable to tell us who they are,” said sheriff’s Deputy Rick Cordero, who works at Rio Norte Junior High and Valencia High School, where students with special needs attend classes. He recalled a wandering man whose blank stare suggested Alzheimer’s disease. “He becomes your ride-along for the rest of the day until a family member calls and says `We’re missing Grandpa,”‘ Cordero said. Often relatives do not call at the first signs of flight. The registry is a resource for people with communication and behavior disorders, including and Alzheimer’s disease, oppositional defiant disorder, autism and Asperger syndrome, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Separate binders are kept for males and females and for easy retrieval ages are clustered in five-year increments. Emily Iland, who organized C.L.E.A.R., said registry programs in Pennsylvania and Florida inspired her to establish this one, but it took three years for the Sheriff’s Department to embrace the concept. The William S. Hart Union High School District, the Child and Family Center, Regional Center and the city of Santa Clarita’s Human Relations Forum are partners in the organization. The nonprofit Santa Clarita Autism-Asperger Network plans take the group, funded solely by donations, under its wing. Cordero, the Sheriff’s Department’s liaison to the group who helped devise the registry format, hopes it becomes a pilot program for the county. Wearing the helper’s shoes, he envisions what it feels like to be on the other side. “What if you lost the ability to tell someone who you are?” he said. “You could be surrounded by law enforcement, scared, (not) knowing what’s going on.” For more information, visit, or call Iland 297-4205. [email protected] (661) 257-5255160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventHis parents follow the precaution of locking the doors but Bradley keeps checking, and on Thanksgiving he got lucky when a guest did not. Bradley foils the protection of labels on clothes: he strips naked and flees. A cadre of groups joined forces three years ago to banish scenarios like this one. The Community and Law Enforcement Aware Response program bridges the communication gap between first responders, the courts and school officials – and people with disabilities and their families. They aim to replace misunderstandings and blame with enlightened emergency response. C.L.E.A.R. established a registry Saturday where families can create profiles of loved ones and submit photos, so those who cannot speak for themselves are spoken for. Confidential forms filed with the Sheriff’s Department ask about unusual behaviors that might attract attention or endanger the person, favorite pastimes and locations, medical issues and the best way to approach and communicate with the special needs person. last_img