Tulsa has become the first autism-friendly city by having first responders and more than 100 local businesses trained to recognize and properly respond to people with autism.
The designation was spearheaded by the founders of the Autism Center of Tulsa, two mothers of children with autism: Jennifer Sollars-Miller and Michelle Wilkerson.
Sollars-Miller said her now 16-year-old son, Josh, must be exposed to the community to be able to operate by himself.
“I want him to be as independent as possible,” she said. “And to do that I have to bring him out in the community.”
It’s important for first responders like police officers and firefighters to know how to recognize autism and deal with people who have it, she said.
People with autism tend to wander and are more likely to have contact with law enforcement than others, Sollars-Miller said.
Samantha Thomas, corporate catering and marketing director at Andolini’s Pizzeria, said the restaurant’s managers were eager to become an autism-friendly business.
“It was an easy decision on our end,” she said.
The restaurant has a sticker to let people know it is autism-friendly. Staff know to be patient with people who have autism and keep them engaged when possible, Thomas said.
“That makes all the difference in the world,” she said.
People with autism shouldn’t have any trouble going to a restaurant. People with them may want to tell staff about the situation but shouldn’t have to, she said.