New forms help ensure first responders provide the best service to those with special needs

NEW BERLIN/WAUKESHA -- April is "Autism Awareness Month," and there is a new effort by Waukesha police to ensure that the best service is being provided to those with special needs.

At New Berlin Bowl on Sunday, April 24th, bowlers were adorned in colorful shirts and sporting leis during the 8th annual "Hoa Aloha Autism Awareness" event.

"Hoa Aloha Autism Awareness" event

"Hoa Aloha is Hawaiian for 'good friend,' which is the name of our non-profit organization," Chelsea Budde, with "Good Friend, Inc." said.

The gathering benefited the community, as well as those along the autism spectrum.

"It's all about being able to see one another in a comfortable light," Budde said.

The fundraiser helps Budde's team educate others about autism.

"Hoa Aloha Autism Awareness" event

"We created a curriculum and some original DVDs, original films for both elementary and middle school to be able to explain autism for peers," Budde said.

The bowling event was noisy and crowded -- and an environment like that can be difficult for someone with autism.

Budde said the environment served as an opportunity to educate.

"People need to understand there is a difference between tantrums and meltdowns and sensory overload and manipulation and this gives them a chance to see what that might look like and gives them a chance to be educated about these special individuals," Budde said.

Waukesha Police Department: Special Needs Forms

Waukesha police are also working to become better educated as it relates to those with autism and other special needs. The police department has made available "Special Needs Forms," which provide a picture and key information about people with autism and other special needs.

Information gathered on the "Special Needs Form" helps officers to know the likes and dislikes, the triggers or sensory issues, as well as de-escalation techniques that could be used when coming in contact with those citizens with special needs.

Dan Baumann with the Waukesha Police Department

"If they have a fear, or an anxiety, or habits of something -- we know not to use that as a trigger. Our officers participate in CIT -- crisis intervention techniques and we work well with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)," Dan Baumann with the Waukesha Police Department said.

Budde said information provided on the form can be helpful.

"What we want to do is make sure first responders know what those crisis behaviors look like and to be able to intervene in a ways to deescalate people on the autism spectrum," Budde said.

"Hoa Aloha Autism Awareness" event

CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Friend, Inc.

CLICK HERE to access a Special Needs Form.