Maryland organization works to educate police departments on intellectual disabilities


GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WDVM) — Raising awareness and challenging misconceptions. That’s the goal for one Maryland-based organization working with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities like autism.

The Pathfinders for Autism Organization is based in Baltimore County, but they made a stop in Montgomery County as part of their state-wide summer tour on Tuesday. The group says it’s had a long-standing relationship with Montgomery County Police and the department’s unit that specializes in responding to incidents involving people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The organization says it’s especially important to work with and educate local law enforcement and first responders on how to best interact with the IDD community.

“In a medical situation, a person with autism may not be able to communicate verbally. So, we share techniques on how first responders can communicate alternatively. It’s not them being difficult or refusing to cooperate with the police,” said Rebecca Rienzi, the executive director for Pathfinders for Autism.

The organization says one in six Marylanders has an intellectual or developmental disability and one out of every 52 Maryland children has autism.

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