ROCKVILLE, Md. - Montgomery County police held a special event Friday at the public safety training academy in Rockville designed to build bridges between people with autism and the police. This comes after a series of incidents nationwide where people with autism were shot by police.
Five hundred people signed up to attend the event through the Autism Speaks website. The event offered a tour of a variety of emergency vehicles, a meet and greet of police dogs and had officers in attendance looking to learn as much as possible from families and caregivers.
One person who was at the event was Gordy Baylinson, a young man with autism from Potomac, Maryland. He is unable to speak because of his condition, but he recently wrote a letter to police that has everyone else talking.
Baylinson's family said since he is nonspeaking, he was unable to share what he was thinking until he started his new therapy last year. Now, he types one letter at a time and during two and a half therapy sessions recently, he wrote a letter to Montgomery County police to explain what it is like to be autistic.
"He talks about his almost 6-foot drunken toddler body, and I feel like a lot of people when they see that, they want to treat him like a sweet toddler," said Meghann Parkinson, Baylinson's therapist at the Growing Kids Therapy Center. "But everything that has been going on, he's a 16-year-old boy. He's had the same thoughts, these experiences inside of a 16-year-old boy, so it makes sense that this would come out in such a strong way."
The letter is emotional, profound and bowled people over, including his father.
"For that to come out, my son who up until that time, we had never really seen the inside of his mind," said Evan Baylinson. "His explanation were just - there was humor … there was empathy to the police. One of the things he said was make sure you protect yourself."
Baylinson's parents asked him if he wanted to attend the Montgomery County Police Department's fourth annual Autism and Intellectual Disabilities Night Out or his prom and he opted for the autism event.
We asked him why he wrote the letter and he typed out his answer to us:
"Oh goodness. Where to start? Autism has a wide range of things going on. Some individuals are a lot more controlled, some are not. It is imperative to be able to work with both."
Baylinson's letter has gone viral. His father said he has seen coverage of it around the world as far away as Australia and India.
Baylinson's therapy is somewhat controversial because some people think the person with autism is being prompted. However, his family said that is not the case with him and it is allowing him to say things that are in his mind, but just has not been able to say before.