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AG Reyes Honored with 1st Annual “Autism Champion” Award

Recognized for Providing Autism-Related Training for Law Enforcement

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is being recognized this week for leadership in increasing awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder among law enforcement across the state. AG Reyes is the first person to receive the newly created “Autism Champion” award. The honor was created by the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism at Utah Valley University to recognize individuals in the community who provide support for individuals with Autism and their families.

AG Reyes provided leadership in providing law enforcement training to recognize the behavior of people with Autism under duress. Using the VirTra virtual reality system, law enforcement officers can experience real-life situations to educate them about the actions of those with autism, which can often be mistaken for threatening behavior. In 2020, a near-fatal officer-involved shooting involving an autistic youth resulted in a Utah law requiring enhanced special-needs training and education for law enforcement, focusing on autism-involved situations.

“We are proud participants of the planning managed through the AG’s Office, and meet monthly with designated staff on this important issue,” said Laurie Bowen, Associate Director of the UVU Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism. She continued: “Trainings now being offered through the AG’s Office are going to save lives and establish a much safer community for everyone.”

Of the work that has gone into creating and giving these trainings, Bowen said: “It is truly providing assistance to some who have no voice otherwise, and that is a significant gift.”

Utah Solicitor General Melissa Holyoak accepted the award for the Attorney General. The “Autism Champion” award was presented this year by Dr. Kyle Reyes, Vice President of Student Affairs at UVU, and brother to Attorney General Reyes.

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