August 5, 2013

A Heartfelt Thank You for MCPD’s First “Autism Night Out”

Montgomery County Police, in partnership with the “Autism Speaks” organization, hosted the first-ever “Autism Night Out” in late July at the department’s Public Safety Training Academy in Rockville.

Hundreds attended the event that provided an opportunity for families affected by autism to learn from police, but also for police to learn from the families. Police officers are often called to a home to assist a caregiver with locating an autistic person who has wandered.

The event featured pertinent information, food, a moon bounce for the kids and raffle prizes. Families met Search and Rescue Team members and rescue dogs and saw emergency police and fire/rescue apparatus. Young people with autism received a bright green safety T-shirt.

After the event, the organizing officers received the following “thank you” email from a mom, Nora Fitzpatrick. It is reprinted with her permission.

“What an amazing evening. I wanted to send you a handwritten thank you, but I just can't wait. I wanted to write while it's all still fresh.

Tonight was amazing. Even more amazing than I expect and in ways I didn't expect. First of all, it felt like a party. I felt like I knew most of the people there. It was just so much fun to see so many people and chat and see our kids together. It was a beautiful summer night.

But I really wanted to tell you what your department... and specifically the four of you... did for our autism family. Sometimes things around us can be challenging: battling the schools to get our kids what they need, battling insurance companies to get coverage for treatments, worrying about new behaviors, health issues, the future, fitting in, etc. I'm not saying that to complain, but merely to paint a picture. Instead of a battle, the Montgomery County Police Department embraced our families and embraced our children. You welcomed us and announced to the world that our children are worthwhile. They are worth the extra work. You cared enough to want to understand what makes our kids tick and want to do everything you can to be there and support our community.

This sort of thing is rare for our community... this complete acceptance.

When we get together with other autism families, it's awesome because we can let our guard down. Our kids can flap and yell and stim and sing and it doesn't matter one little bit. Tonight was one of those nights. You made us feel like our kids could be themselves with you. And that makes all of us relax.

I can't even begin to tell you how personally touched I am. Truly. My kid is awesome and my passion in life is for her to have the understanding and acceptance that the Department has demonstrated.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for all you do for Rory, for my family, and for our county. I am so proud to have worked with you on this and would do anything in the world for you.”

All the officers involved thank you, Nora, and all the families who came to learn more about how to keep their special loved ones safer.

County residents who would like to learn more about improving safety for a person with Autism can e-mail

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