Autism awareness promoted by SBPD patch

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Close up of SBPD autism patch.

This April you’ll see something colorful on the sleeves of Seal Beach Police Department officers, civilian employees and volunteers and it’s all for a good cause.

They will be wearing a new patch designed for National Autism Awareness Month.

The patch features royal blue, the color associated with Autism Awareness, red and yellow letters and a green puzzle piece balancing on a seal’s nose.

A puzzle piece is a symbol for the autism community representing the complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The variety of colors represent the diversity of the people and families living with the condition.

In addition to being worn by all SBPD staff, the patches are also for sale with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Autism Partnership Foundation, a research, training and advocacy nonprofit with U.S. headquarters in Seal Beach. Patches are $10 each and can be purchased at the front desk of the Seal Beach Police Department.

Officer behind patch has personal connection to autism.

The Autism Awareness patch is the brainchild of Seal Beach Police Corporal Joe Garcia. He was inspired by the pink breast cancer awareness patch officers wear in October. The issue of autism awareness is a personal one for Cpl. Garcia. His oldest son was diagnosed with moderate Autism Spectrum Disorder at two years old. Now 4 years old, his son’s diagnosis has been upgraded to mild. Cpl. Garcia gets emotional talking about his son’s progress and the team he credits with helping his son. “Just their love of doing what they do,” Cpl. Garcia praised the therapists, teachers and medical professionals that treated his son, “just seeing what it did to help him.” He called one speech pathologist an “angel” to his family. Cpl. Garcia’s son and the people who helped his family motivated him to make the patch. “I just thought it would be awesome to show the support, not just only for the people and the individuals with autism… But also to those who work with them,” Cpl. Garcia said during an interview last month.

Patch goes global

Cpl. Garcia worked with the Long Beach-based embroidery company National Emblem to create the patch and consulted the Autism Partnership Foundation on its design. The Seal Beach Police Foundation paid for an order of 500 patches and they sold like “hotcakes” after Cpl. Garcia promoted the patches on his personal Instagram account. “It’s already gone global, as far as Australia, so that’s pretty awesome,” Cpl. Garcia said. He also sold patches to people in Idaho and on the East Coast of the U.S. As of last week, Cpl. Garcia said he had nearly sold out of the first batch of patches and has ordered another 500 which should be ready in a few weeks. Cpl. Garcia said uniform company First Tactical is supplying shirts at a deep discount for the patches to be sewn on.

Cpl. Garcia estimated patch sales would raise between $2,500-$3,000 for the Seal Beach-based Autism Partnership Foundation. “We’re excited to be part of that collaboration,” Andi Waks, director of the Seal Beach location for Autism Partnership and board member of Autism Partnership Foundation, said in a recent interview. “I just think the collaboration between what we do in this city and being recognized and acknowledged by the Police Department is very, very moving for us.” Waks said that the families served by Autism Partnership are very excited about the patch with some even asking to have them for sports teams.

Autism Partnership started in 1993 and has a site in Old Town that treats about 55 children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Partnership Foundation, its affiliated nonprofit, conducts research, provides training, and advocates for what Waks called high-quality Advanced Behavioral Analysis, or ABA, the treatment the agency uses to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. About 1 in 68 or 1.5 percent of children is said to be identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cpl. Garcia estimated between four and five other SBPD employees have family members with autism and have seen success with therapy.

Cpl. Garcia hopes the patch will help raise awareness about autism and also send a message to the community from law enforcement. “Just let the people know that we here in law enforcement, [the] Seal Beach Police Department, that we’re aware. We take it seriously.” He also hopes that future patch sales may provide funding to train officers about the complexities of dealing with people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. For more information on the patch, email him at JFGarcia@sealbeachca.gov.

For more information about Autism Partnership and Autism Partnership Foundation visit autismpartnership.com.

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