SHALIMAR — School resource officers with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office underwent a yearly training session Monday to help them better understand how to interact with children on the autism spectrum.

Lt. Gary Venuti, who oversees youth services for the Sherif's Office, said the SROs participated in the four-hour training session with Autism Spectrum of the Emerald Coast to help them learn how to deal with autistic kids and identify methods to commuicate that might work best.

“We worked to identify what we think are possible misconceptions people have about autistic kids, such as they have challenging behavior or they don’t make eye contact,” Venuti said. “We worked to come up with different skills on how to deal with communication difficulties that might arise.”

He said the SROs also undergo yearly training at the Florida Association of School Resource Officers conference every year, but the added training at the Sheriff’s Office in Shalimar was another way for SROs to stay up-to-date on the latest practices.

“The way that people identify and deal with kids on the spectrum has changed over the years,” Venuti said. “That’s the reason why we reached out to (Autism Spectrum on the Emerald Coast), so that our SROs have more tools in their toolbox.”

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