The Crusader Newspaper Group

Sheriff Martinez, Township Trustee Lareau launch Autism Training Program for Lake County Police Officers

“Our commitment to families and individuals affected by autism keeps growing! St. John Township Trustee Cathy Lareau and I have signed an agreement officially launching a groundbreaking effort to give our police officers essential tools that can help them communicate with people with autism during emergency situations.

“The St. John Township Trustee’s office has donated 10 Ben’s Blue Bags, packed with sensory aids like fidget spinners, squeeze balls and puzzles, which experts say can help to calm people with autism when they’re faced with stress or overstimulation.

“The bags also have placards with visual prompts that can help indicate what has happened to a person in distress, how they are feeling or even what kind of assistance they may need. These tools can be critical for interacting with individuals who have autism spectrum disorder by giving them nonverbal ways to communicate.

“Six-year-old Ben Kodicek, of Crown Point, is the inspiration for the bags. His dad, Crown Point Fire Department Lt. Matt Kodicek participated in the kickoff. Matt says he created Ben’s Blue Bags as part of a comprehensive training program that will equip first responders with the skills they need to provide better service for people on the autism spectrum. He will train our officers and is eager to share his knowledge and experience.

“Nicole Reveliotis lost her son, 10-year-old Logan Ruiz, in Dyer in 2022. She says Logan managed to leave their fenced-in yard and wandered into the path of an oncoming train.

“Nicole started a group called Logan’s Love to honor her son and raise awareness about autism. Logan’s Love joined forces with Ben’s Blue Bags and has been instrumental in fundraising to support this effort. The group also provided an extra communication board for the bags.

“Eliana Grahovac is a big supporter of Logan’s Speaks. She attended the kickoff with her son Georgie who has autism. She says it’s encouraging to see the Lake County Sheriff’s Department taking the initiative to educate police officers about autism and find tangible ways to help those affected.

“Trustee Lareau is honored to partner with me for this new program that will truly make a difference in the lives of so many. She hopes other first responder agencies reach out to township trustees to start Ben’s Blue Bags programs throughout Lake County.

“As sheriff, I am committed to making Lake County safer for everyone and I’m pleased to be able to spearhead a program that can foster more understanding and ultimately save lives.”

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