Councilwoman Cindy Kirk offering free window stickers to alert first responders
The rates of autism have steadily risen at alarming rates over the past five decades. While some claim that the increase is due to improved diagnostic techniques, the fact remains that in 2018 the CDC determined that 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
These dramatic statistics recently caught the attention of Allegheny County Council when they issued a proclamation in March 2019 making April the official Autism Awareness Month and April 2nd World Autism Awareness Day in Allegheny County.
But two members of County Council did not stop there. Councilman Pat Catena, who is personally affected by autism and Councilwoman Cindy Kirk, a registered nurse who has mentored children with autism, took calls for awareness a bit further. After Catena was unable to interest state lawmakers in creating a voluntary database of children with autism, he remained undaunted. The database would have been used so that police would know that an occupant of a vehicle had autism and would act accordingly, in the event of a traffic stop or emergency.
Instead, Catena and Kirk are now offering bright and colorful stickers emblazoned with the words “Occupant with Autism” that can be used to alert first responders to the disability.
“Without warning, police could misjudge behaviors,” said Kirk, “this decal may prevent unnecessary situations. One of the children that I mentor was recently for a misunderstanding with police. Although the situation ended amicably, in some cases the behaviors can be misjudged.” She credits her nursing background with making her more sensitive to the needs of others, particularly the disabled.
Constituents in Kirk’s areas can request a decal by email. They will also be distributed to muncipalities in her area. Kirk’s constituency includes the following areas:
- Bell Acres
- Bradford Woods
- Franklin Park
- Ohio Twp.
- Pine Twp.
- Richland Twp.
- Sewickley Heights
- Sewickley Hills