The 3rd Annual Autism Safety Night Out in Rockville, Maryland, right outside of Washington DC, was, once again, a huge success. The event, hosted in partnership with the Montgomery County Police Department and Autism Speaks, attracted over 300 people, the largest crowd in the event's history.
Every family in attedance received a toolkit comprised of a door alarm, Autism Alert window cling, Family Wandering Emergency Plan, Safety and Wandering Prevention Checklist, School Alert IEP Letter and many more resources to promote safety and prevent wandering. In addition, the fair provided kids with the opportunity to meet officers and K9s, tour emergency vehicles and receive a Safety Sleep shirt.
During the speaking program, Chief of Police Tom Major stated that the department handles on average two investigations per week related to missing persons. Ann Gibbons, Senior Regional Director for Autism Speaks, encouraged parents to contact the police immediately when their loved one with autism elopes.
The highlight of the evening was Event Ambassador Jake Edwards, a 12-year-old, 6th grader at the Kennedy Krieger School-Montgomery County Campus. Jake explained autism as his super powers that may make him act or feel certain ways at times and the importance of others understanding these super powers too. Officer Laurie Reyes of the Department’s Autism Outreach Unit choose Jake to serve as the Event Ambassador because, "Jake is a great kid that will be famous and rule the world one day. Good for us, to get on the Jake bandwagon early. Jake is motivational and represents both the struggles and accomplishments of a person with Autism.”
The event would not have been possible without the leadership of Autism Speaks National Capital Area Board Member Nora Fitzpatrick, Officer Laurie Reyes and Officer Tara Wimmer as well as the key sponsors, community partners and the first responders who made it a memorable night for families. Autism Speaks looks forward to continuing to expand the local success of Autism Safety Night Out in Maryland on a national scale, as it has now become the model for other chapters across the country.