By ElisaBeth Brentano
Brad Benjamin, 27, and his brother Kenny Benjamin, 26, have autism spectrum disorder, and they wanted to help others on the spectrum stay safe should they come into contact with first responders during a stressful situation. With help from their parents and the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland, the young men have launched the National Autism Registry, which works specifically with first responders.
“The reason why we are excited about this is because this way people would never fear… people with Asperger’s and autism anymore,” Kenny Benjamin told local news station WJLA. “People fear what they don’t understand about us autistic people.”
Registry members receive a wearable USB device with a puzzle piece inside a yield sign, which gives first responders information about the person they’re helping. The brothers showed TV crews a plastic bracelet and a more sensory-friendly version, in which the USB device is embedded in a sweatband and worn around the wrist.
“We are trying to give the officers a heads up on what they are dealing with and train them on how they can deal with it,” mother Joyce Benjamin told WJLA. “My oldest, if he gets anxious, he may get combative just out of fear.”
The Benjamins met with Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski this week; the department is the first to start implementing the program. Neighboring Maryland counties, including Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, Talbot and Queen Anne’s have agreed to use the program, and all parties involved hope police divisions across over the country will join them.
“Having that officer in a position to know in advance that they are going to have a difference perspective on things than some other folks, that helps,” Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski added. “And at the end of the day what’s important is that everyone is safer.”