STOCKTON (CBS13) — A Stockton police officer is being praised for his quick thinking after helping a child with nonverbal autism get home safely.

On Monday morning, someone called Stockton police about a boy who looked scared and confused. When an officer found the boy near downtown, he used a pencil and paper for communication and figured out who the boy’s family was.

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“That makes me really emotional. Last year my son ran away from school,” said Michelle Keomanivong. She also has a child who is also nonverbal autistic.

For Keomanivong, the photo of a Stockton officer in action sparks flashbacks of when officers helped her child. Her son with nonverbal autism ran away at five years old.

“A lot of children on the spectrum run away for different reasons, maybe they are overstimulated or they can’t communicate,” Keomanivong said.

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Stockton Police and a paramedic tracked him down and had him draw pictures of his house.

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“My son didn’t realize how sad everybody was,” Keomanivong said.

For many parents with kids on the spectrum, interaction with police can be stressful. Violent outbursts can be misinterpreted.

“That’s our greatest fear, our ultimate fear. That they’re going to respond and out come weapons, then what?” said Keri Horon, a Sacramento4kids Writer who has a son with autism.

As more and more police departments incorporate mental health into their training, Horon said the parents of people with autism should be involved.

“We are the ones who know our children and we know what their behaviors look like. We know what they may be responding to that officers do not know,” Horon said.

A spokesperson for Stockton Police said officers do ongoing training for mental health and people with disabilities.
An officer at the department who has an autistic son has facilitated some of the training.

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