An area lawmaker was joined by a former colleague at the State Capitol this past week to bring attention to April as Autism Awareness Month.

State Representative Mike Mueller is a retired Livingston County Sheriff’s deputy who took office in January. Prior to serving in the House, Mueller had a 19-year career in law enforcement. Mueller says part of his focus during this legislative process is mental health - not only for the well-being and physical well-being of police officers but also recognizing those with mental health issues. The Linden Republican was joined at the Capitol by Sgt. Dave Archer of the University of Michigan Department of Public Safety. Archer is a former colleague of Mueller’s at the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department who now works to train law enforcement to identify individuals with autism.

Archer says he trains other law enforcement officers and first responders about Autism awareness. The diagnosis of Autism is said to be on the rise, with recent estimates in children of 1 in 59. Archer says if you look at statistics, someone on the Autism Spectrum is seven times more likely to have an encounter with law enforcement based on one thing, behavior. He noted the work of Jasmynn’s Voice, which was started in honor of Jasmyn who was diagnosed with Autism at age 3 and is non-verbal but an iPad device with a communication app has opened doors and given her a voice. The family wants to do the same for others in Southern Michigan, thus launched Jasmynn’s Voice and provided iPads to others diagnosed with autism. To date, the group has given over 230 individuals the same opportunity to “find their voice” via the iPad. The family says through Jasmynn, they’re finding there is hope that others with autism are discovering how to unlock silent words when given the tools and guidance to do so. More information can be found through the link. (JM)