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Spectrum Education Center Awarded Grant from Ohio State Bar Foundation to Assist Individuals with Communication Disabilities

December 13, 2022

ALLIANCE - The Ohio State Bar Foundation awarded a $22,500 grant to support Mount Union’s Spectrum Education Center and its Courage 2 Communicate campaign.

Courage 2 Communicate was developed by Dr. Kristine Turko, BCBA, COBA and her students working at the Spectrum Education Center. The grant will be overseen by Turko, with the help of Mount Union students, local high school partners and local law enforcement agencies.

Courage 2 Communicate provides education about Ohio’s Communication Disability Law. This law allows anyone with a diagnosed communication disability, like autism, to voluntarily enroll in a database that connects to LEADS (Law Enforcement Agencies Data System). This provides the officer with a warning that the driver, or a passenger in the vehicle, may have challenges communicating.

“This work has the potential to support thousands of families in the region,” Turko said. “The symptoms of communication disabilities are often misunderstood. For example, a person who is unable to articulate their words clearly or make eye contact consistently may be wrongly accused of noncompliance or intoxication. The work funded by this grant will increase the likelihood of people with communication disorders having a positive experience with the law.”

courage to communicate logo

The grant funds will be used to educate Ohioans about the Communication Disabilities Law, help people enroll in the LEADS database and to educate law enforcement about communication disabilities. This work supports the mission of the Ohio State Bar Foundation to promote public understanding of the law and improvements in the justice system throughout Ohio. 

High school students across five counties (Stark, Western Mahoning, Western Columbiana, Northern Tuscarawas and Carroll) will be trained to share information with families in their school districts about the Communication Disabilities Law and get families enrolled in the state-wide database.

In addition, educational materials will be developed to educate law enforcement about communication disorders so that officers are prepared to respond to calls for those who are registered in the state-wide program. 

“The opportunity for our students to work with Dr. Turko to promote Courage 2 Communicate is another outstanding example of how high-impact educational experiences can multiply their impacts on our local schools, law enforcement agencies and ultimately, our communities,” said Dr. Sandra Madar, founding dean of Mount Union’s College of Natural and Health Sciences. “Under her leadership, college and high school students will collaboratively develop innovative means to improve communication between law enforcement and the public.” 

Goals of the grant include increased awareness of potential challenges during encounters between people with communication disorders and law enforcement, improved interactions of those with communication disorders and law enforcement and increased likelihood of people with communication disorders having a positive experience with the law.