“We have partnered with Bartow County public safety and heading that up for us was Capt. Mike Shinall with the Bartow County Sheriff’s [Office] ... and all public safety has been supportive of this event,” Sandi Marcus of Autism in Bartow said.
Even drawing participation from the Calhoun Police Department’s motorcycle division, the event, which began at Harley-Davidson of Cartersville, featured the BCSO, Cartersville and Bartow County fire departments, Bartow County EMS, Adairsville, Cartersville, Emerson, Euharlee and White police departments.
Marcus said for the past year she has worked to train about 300 law enforcement and public safety personnel on how to communicate with someone with autism or if a child with autism goes missing.
“[The training] has been going great. It’s really upped the awareness about autism and interacting with people with autism,” BCSO’s Maj. Mark Givins said. “It’s really opened our eyes to things we can do if we go to a call involving someone with autism, things we can do to minimize things and calm everybody down, or whatever the case may be, and do everything we can to help them.”
For Marcus, generating autism awareness and helping those in need has been a part of life for about eight years.
“My grandsons are 10 years old and they were diagnosed around the time of their second birthday and at that timeframe in my life I was free to be able to research and advocate for them and their needs,” Marcus said. “That was my role, so I spent a lot of time researching, gathering information and I play a lot of roles in the state, not just Bartow County.”
She continued, “I’m co-chair for Autism Votes, which is a grassroots autism advocacy group where we’re working to pass autism insurance reform in the state of Georgia. I’m also a 2012 Partners in Policymaking graduate with All About Developmental Disabilities and that provides direct input into our governor with items that concern people with developmental disabilities, not just particularly autism.”
Marcus said the organization appreciates the participation of local law enforcement with the event and the autism training.
“We’re very fortunate in Bartow County that our sheriff’s department sought us out for the training so they saw the need there,” she said.
Meeting the first Thursday of every month at Cartersville Medical Center from 7 to 9 p.m. in classroom No. 1, Autism in Bartow helps to meet its mission through an array of community support endeavors, Marcus said.
“We try to send educators from Bartow County and the city of Cartersville school systems to attend conferences held locally here in our state to support them with additional educational help, that’s one of the key roles we play,” Marcus said. We do provide support to roughly about 200 families throughout Bartow County. There’s more families out there, but there’s 200 that we work with and interact with.
“We also provide books with information to our public library system and to our schools and in the past we’ve supported the school systems by giving grants to autism classrooms. Our funding is low, and we need to try to build that back up so we can reach out and help with all the budget cuts that have happened. We want to fill that gap there.”
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, autism affects an estimated 1 in 50 school-age children and 1 in 34 boys.