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Making A Difference | Police officer helps autistic boy during traffic accident

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During Autism Awareness Month, the autism community is trying to shift the message from awareness to acceptance.

One Dauphin County mom found awareness and acceptance from the folks who serve and protect, and it's making a difference.

On Feb. 28 Lisa Fulton was in a car accident. She was leaving a funeral to pick up her son from school that afternoon.

Her foot slipped off the brake and she rear-ended the car in front of her.

Her 19-year-old sold Dana was in the car, he was diagnosed with autism at three years old.

You're probably thinking Lisa and Dana's day is about to get rougher.

But thanks to Susquehanna Township Police officer Clee Tillman, who responded, a potentially volatile situation was diffused.

"This officer, Officer Tillman - as soon as he approached the vehicle, I let him know, listen, he saw I was crying, he saw Dana was upset. And I said, I have a son with autism. The first thing he did was he stepped away from the car. And then, he said I'm going to go talk to the person in the other car, when you're ready, let me know and I'll approach the vehicle."

That simple gesture made all the difference.

"Dana and I appreciate you thinking it through and not just taking it for granted that he was acting up. so I definitely appreciate you and the Susquehanna Township Police Department."

Officer Clee Tillman has been a police officer for eleven years, eight of them with Susquehanna Township. He says he owes his actions that day, in part, to training he received through the police academy.

"They give us a segment on special needs individuals and how to step back and reflect on how to deal with these situations."

And thanks to Officer Tillman paying attention in class, that extra time and space he gave Lisa gave her time to calm down herself and Dana.

She was able to make sure he didn't run into traffic because of the chaos and confusion. Behaviors that can also confuse first responders.

"All I saw was tears all I saw was him flapping."

Lisa, of course, understood. But as a children's educational rights advocate, her involvement with the autism society and establishing her own advocacy foundation, she's not used to the tables being turned.

"I'm out there trying to bring awareness and look it was already here in our police department."

"It's a great feeling honestly. We deal with a lot of negativity day in and day out at work and sometimes you don't know the impact you have on people til situations like this that happen. When we're in the performance of our duty and we think we're just doing our job, then someone actually comes back and says thank you, job well done, it kinda hits home a little better."

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT AUTISM AND LOCAL RESOURCES:

http://autismharrisburg.org/

http://www.paautism.org/

http://www.keystonehumanservices.org/autism-services/adult-community-autism-program/default.php

http://www.nhsonline.org/services-education-autism.html

https://www.thevistaschool.org/

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