A New Jersey police officer was called in to assist on a peculiar emergency recently — a “teddy bear rescue” for a 12-year-old boy with autism.
Operators received a frantic 911 phone call on the evening of March 13 from the boy, of Woodbridge. He had been playing with his tiny teddy bear, Freddy, when the toy fell off his bed. Unable to immediately locate Freddy, the seventh-grader placed the 911 call to request assistance for a search-and-rescue mission.
“My teddy bear fell down again. Don’t worry I’ll rescue you again. Goodbye again. See you again,” Ryan Paul can be heard saying on the call’s recording before abruptly hanging up, ABC7 reports.
“Ryan often fixates on certain toys. This time it just happened to be his teddy bear,” Ryan’s father Bob tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “He called because he felt he needed help.”
Ryan’s mother, father and sister were all in the living room when they received a call from a local dispatcher, inquiring about the emergency assistance requested. Bob was confused until he realized the only family member not in the room was Ryan.
“I said, ‘Ryan, did you call 911? And he said ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Why?’ And he shouted, ‘Teddy bear rescue!'” Bob recalls, adding that he explained to the dispatcher that his autistic son had called and that no assistance was necessary. However, due to the police department’s policy, the dispatcher had already sent rookie Officer Khari Manzini to investigate.
By the time Manzini arrived, Ryan had already found Freddy on the side of his bed. But the youngster was ecstatic to see the police officer at the door, and wanted to take a picture with him. He happily obliged.
“We found the teddy bear; the teddy bear was OK,” Officer Manzini told ABC7. “He was in safe hands, no injuries, nothing like that.”
Bob was thrilled about how the police officer had handled his son and the situation, noting that Manzini was extremely “gracious and understanding.” He adds, “It put us all at ease to see him at the door when we explained the situation. He asked what can I do to make things a little easier.”
Officer Manzini had received training from POACS (Parents of Autistic Children) Autism Services, a non-profit that provides training for parents, educators and first-responders on how to interact with people on the spectrum.
According to Bob, who serves as a Battalion Chief at Woodbridge Fire Department, this specialized training made all the difference.
“There are so many traits that people with autism or disabilities have that others may not understand,” the father explains. “For example, a lot of people with autism may not respond to verbal commands, and that could be seen as confrontational or noncompliant. [Individuals with autism] may respond in a way that [first-responders] don’t understand.”
Bob later wrote a note expressing his gratitude to the local police department, posting it on Facebook.
“I’d like to thank the officer who responded for his kindness and understanding, even posing for a picture with the ‘offender’, as well as the 9-1-1 operator who called back to make sure everything was ok,” Ryan’s father wrote online. “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.”
Officer Manzini’s heartwarming response to the unconventional emergency request has since caught the widespread attention of local news stations, thanks to the post by Bob, who hopes their story will help raise more awareness of his “happy-go-lucky” son’s condition.
“Just seeing something like this at the local level and throughout the country and world is important,” said Ryan’s father. “The more people that understand autism the better. It will make it easier for those that are on the spectrum to live as they go forward.”
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