by Brad Boardman, MAC executive director

A local law enforcement team approached Morgan Autism Center in 2009, proposing to include autism as a subject for their Crisis Intervention Training. The idea was to provide training to their officers and other law enforcement personnel in an innovative first-responder model that would include trainer partners from the community, behavioral healthcare and advocacy groups. Of course we were ecstatic that we might have the chance to train even a few individuals who would very likely come into contact with persons with autism.

Since that date in 2009, Morgan Autism Center has trained hundreds of law enforcement personnel from all over the Bay Area about autism. Training includes information on the rising likelihood of encounters, current service options, social behavior, strategies to assist with communication, sensory issues, ways to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes, and possible field scenarios.

While we are very proud of the classroom-based training we provide officers, we are sometimes lucky enough to add a second part to the training: a trip to Morgan Autism Center. For a person who is new to autism, this experience can transform classroom learning into real understanding. During our tour, we have the chance to show off the strategies that assist our students and clients in successfully navigating their day, along with describing our model and the need for a highly supportive, positive environment.

Of course the most valuable part of the training is a chance for law enforcement to visit with students and clients, who are both very proud to show off their achievements and excited to interact with new people. At the end of the visit it is always fun to see our students and clients exchanging warm goodbyes with their visitors.

“The Morgan Autism Center training was one of the most valuable trainings,” Santa Clara County Deputy Jeremy Jones said recently. “It also debunked some of my misperceptions about autism. The best part of (the training) was visiting the MAC site, where we could match the reality of autism with the in-class training.”

Autism is only one of the topics covered during Crisis Intervention Training. Other topics include but are not limited to major depression, Alzheimer’s, personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and bipolar disorder.

I want to specially thank Agi Schenley, Santa Clara County CIT program originator; Kathryn Parlet, current Santa Clara County CIT program lead and Vanessa Payne, San Jose Police Department CIT program lead.­


Editor’s note: Earlier this month, Morgan Autism Center’s Executive Director Brad Boardman trained approximately 100 law enforcement and community personnel from agencies including the Mountain View Fire Department; Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto police departments, San Jose police recruits and officers; Santa Clara County Sherriff’s Office; Valley Transportation Authority; Bay Area Rapid Transit; and City of San Jose’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services.