People who have sensory processing disorders like autism often have a hard time talking with police, but there’s one local Girl Scout troop looking at changing that.

Laila Gray and her fellow scouts from Girl Scout Troop 40150 are making what they call sensory bottles. They’re item-filled shakers that can be used to help distract and calm down anyone who needs assistance in tough times.

“When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism because every individual, whether they have autism or not, is unique,” said Sylvia Hollins with the University of Alabama’s Regional Autism Network.

That individuality is what brought a room full of police officers and sheriff’s deputies to the Tuscaloosa Police Department for training. In fact, one in every 58 people are somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Girl Scout leader Adrienne Gray said she appreciates the officers who are going a step further to educate themselves about those with autism.

“It’s extremely important and humbling that our service men and women learn how to protect and provide for us in different ways for different people in the community, because nobody fits the cookie cutter,” Gray said.

Gray’s daughter Laila is active in Girl Scouts and daughter Nadia is on the autism spectrum, which made the sensory bottles a real passion project.

“I have about four girls with autism in my Girl Scout trooper and two girls who have siblings with autism, and it’s close to their hearts as well,” Gray said.

Those on the autism spectrum may react differently in situations involving police officers, and might seem uncooperative or even aggressive. That’s something police must keep in mind any time they’re out and about, Gray said.

“I’m really happy and glad that they’re teaching everybody that autism is special,” Gray said. “It’s not just because they can’t do it, it’s because they need help and need to be addressed in a different way.”

Categories: Community, Local News, Spirit of Alabama