Rookie Police Officer Helps Young Boy With Autism

Deborah Hansen Contributor
Rookie Police Officer Helps Young Boy With Autism
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Tag The Flag Salute SALUTE

Rookie Officer Khari Manzini of the Woodbridge, N.J. Police Department sprang into action recently when 12-year-old Ryan Paul called 9-1-1 in a panic because he could not find one of his dearest companions… his beloved teddy bear. Manzini headed over to the boy’s home, thankful that he had training in helping all citizens, no matter what age they are. Many others may have discounted Ryan’s call as a prank, but Manzini knew how important something like this can be, especially if the individual has special needs. In this case, Manzini was correct as Ryan is autistic.

Ryan’s parents have instructed their son to call 9-1-1 for emergencies, and in Ryan’s experience, this qualified as an urgent situation. He told the dispatcher, “The teddy bear fell down again” without providing any other information before he hung up.

Once he arrived at the Paul home, it didn’t take long for Manzini and Ryan to find the missing stuffed toy. “Ryan was very happy to see me,” Manzini said.

Recent data shows that approximately one in 59 children in the state of New Jersey has autism. A New Jersey-based organization, POAC Autistic Services, offers specialized training throughout the state, and to date over 67,000 first responders have been trained.

“Whenever we can use that training to keep ourselves safe, but also those we’re helping out, it makes a great difference,” Officer Manzini said. And, of course, Ryan wanted to snap a photo of the event, which Manzini was happy to do. “We took a picture…just getting to know our residents is a major part of it, of making them feel comfortable,” he says.

Ryan’s father, Bob Paul, commended the quick action by the Woodbridge PD, including the dispatcher who handled the call with sensitivity. Paul, a firefighter, posted on his Facebook page that Ryan might need a bit more training on the use of 9-1-1, but was proud of his son for how he handled the “emergency.”

“I’m glad that we have such a fine and caring police department. I’m a little offended my son didn’t get me (a firefighter) to help with the rescue. LOL.”

The bear is happy to be back, safe and sound, too. We salute you officer, Manzini.