EL CENTRO, Calif. - Autism has affected the lives of many in the Imperial Valley. That's why the El Centro Police Department (ECPD) is doing its part to help spread awareness and give back to a local organization.
Starting next week, ECPD will be switching its patches to help raise awareness for autism.
Commander Aaron Reel of ECPD said seeing first hand the challenges parents of children with autism face daily has been a driving force for the customized patches.
"There are a lot of challenges when it comes to dealing with children that are autistic. It's creating order out of what can be considered chaos sometimes. Not all heroes wear capes and not all heroes wear uniforms," Commander Reel said.
When El Centro Police announced that the autism awareness patches would be available for purchase, the response from the community was overwhelming. James Gonzalez, President of Autism Support of Imperial County, hopes the cause will cast a wider net to educate those who are not familiar with the disorder.
"By human nature, people are not as understanding when they see a child throwing a tantrum. And so when they understand what autism is they can understand what that child is going through or what that child is thinking," said Gonzalez.
Twenty-two-year-old Austin Sharpe, who suffers from mild to moderate high functioning autism, said if everyone knew more about his condition, he wouldn't have to pretend to be someone else.
Sharpe said, "Keep at it just being yourself. Not pushing yourself and always be smart."
When Gonzalez was told that his organization would be the recipient of all the proceeds from the patches being sold, he was at a loss of words.
"Everybody knows somebody with autism. Everybody and it affects an entire community. And when an entire community can come together and show that support and love that's touching and that's great," Gonzalez added.
Anyone who wishes to purchase a patch can do so Monday at the El Centro police station's front desk for only $5. But hurry because there's only a limited quantity.