BELL COUNTY, TX — In Belton, a family that knows the struggles of autism all too well, spent hours training both civilian and military police on how to be more effective if they are trying to help a family like theirs.
To avoid being drained powerpoint after powerpoint, the crucial mental health training course for law enforcement likes to get hands-on.
”To try and educate patrol officers, criminal investigation, defense attorneys, judges, and probation officers about autism,” said Anne Jackson, Central Texas prosecutor and mother of Tres, who has autism.
22-year-old Tres Jackson was diagnosed with Autism when he was 10 and now, he and his mother spend their spare time teaching criminal justice professionals how to interact with families like theirs.
”I help them with understanding why we do certain things like our stemming and why we do certain things. Or, why we respond to different things and how it may be perceived as something a little bit weird and that might be a little bit alienating,” said Tres Jackson.
It’s a passion that stems from his mother’s time as a prosecutor.
”In many of my cases, I would have victims, especially of child sexual assault who were on the spectrum, who when they tried to explain what happened were misunderstood. There were even some cases where suspects were misunderstood by police officers, and I started to see this lack of communication and lack of understanding,” said Anne Jackson.
Having Tres and Anne come to assist in training both the civilian and military officers is something instructors say is crucial to the course.
”After Anne and Tres are here we discuss it and they talk about how simple if they had just known, how simple a different decision could have been made.” said Sgt Teresa Phelps, training coordinator.
That is why Tres leaves every class with a simple message.
”If you do recognize that one of us is on the spectrum, maybe you can approach and just help us with things. Help us be more comfortable in certain situations and maybe even come for help,” said Tres Jackson.
On Wednesday, these officers will get even more hands-on with intense roleplaying scenarios designed to push them to the limit.