Project Breaking Down Communication Barriers


Project Breaking Down Communication Barriers


CoHearts Speech Therapy & Communication Services, PLLC is excited to present a cross training initiative involving law enforcement, healthcare professionals, educators and the disability community. This program would serve to keep both law enforcement officers and members of the disability community safe during police encounters by increasing awareness and communication between the groups. The disability community includes individuals with mental health disorders, communication disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down syndrome and Intellectual Disabilities. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2017, 1 in 68 children have autism. Nearly 1 in 12 U.S children ages 3-17 are diagnosed with an impairment in their ability to communicate effectively. What this means is that there are a large number of teens and young adults that will perform poorly on tasks required of them during police encounters due to the lack of comprehension of directives. This population may also struggle to express their thoughts coherently or demonstrate behaviors that make officers uneasy such as fidgeting, stimming behaviors or pacing. According to research published March of 2016 by The Ruderman Family Foundation, disabled individuals make up a third to half of all people killed by law enforcement officers. Project Breaking Down Communication Barriers would serve as a training program supported by a cross disciplinary sharing of knowledge with one primary goal in mind--- to increase empathy and awareness through the breaking down of communication barriers amongst the disability community and the people who serve them.

The Objective

We are a community of diverse people with diverse needs. At the end of the day we all deserve the right to live our best lives free of fear in spaces we are accepted and respected. As we embrace our commonalties, our humanity is liberated and barriers of myths and fear come tumbling down! Project Breaking Down Communication Barriers (BDCB) would like to facilitate this change with our training program by targeting 6 main objectives: 


·    Consult with officers to share simple and concise ways they might deliver directives ---utilizing visuals when possible and checking for understanding to aid in compliance.

·     Reinforcement of expectations of law enforcement to the disability community driving home the message of safety.

·    Provide officers with relevant strategies to identify nuances in a person’s body language, such as stimming behaviors and/or expressive language deficits, that may help identify individuals within the disability community when not visually obvious.

·    Inform law enforcement how a person within the disability community may react to overstimulation by touch, sight sound, or if they are experiencing a mental health crisis. Law enforcement’s response may then be to de-escalate the situation vs. continuance with further directives.

·    Spreading awareness to law enforcement of how individuals within the disability community may choose to move about their environment that may appear as suspicious behavior.

·    Encourage discourse and positive interactions amongst: law enforcement, parents, minority communities, educators, health care professionals, etc. to carry the message of empathy far and wide across DFW.

Our Proposal

Law enforcement officers have a well-deserved reputation of being heroes. Unfortunately due to a significant number of police encounters demonstrating unruly character and poor judgment, this perception has been tarnished in the minority and disability communities alike. Many from marginalized groups have resigned from any interactions with law enforcement.  Parents have limited their special needs teens and adults (specifically African American males) from certain freedoms of exploring the world around them for fear of what may happen if they were to encounter a police officer. To Speech Language Pathologists and other healthcare professionals, this is disheartening. We know when members of the disability community have limited access to the world around them, they struggle with the ability to learn applicable daily life skills and social norms needed to adapt to the expectations of the real world. Their inability to explore their independence stunts their growth in pertinent skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.

My cohorts and I feel passionately that we have a viable solution to help law enforcement gain more trust within marginalized communities that will increase cross disciplinary communication, which lends itself to healthy sharing of knowledge. Project Breaking Down Communication Barriers will prepare officers to identify and adequately address individuals within the disability community---garnering these individuals with unique needs more freedom to explore their communities at large.


The Pew Research Center reports that America is more polarized today than it has been in over two decades. We’re constantly seeing evidence of hate towards humanity, in school shootings, acts of violence towards police, and police encounters that result in abuse of power or loss of life amongst individuals later revealed as innocent of criminal actions.  Humans behave badly. No one is exempt. But not all is lost. How do we move forward in the midst of all of this?  We commit to improving our knowledge about social issues and proactively addressing those issues with an empathetic ear and hands made ready for action; which is what CoHearts is ready to do. One mission of CoHearts Services is to break down communication barriers dispelling myths associated with individuals with unique needs. Project Breaking Down Communication Barriers is a training program that aligns with that mission to do just that. Change can start with one but moves forward with a cohort of individuals on one accord. That is the CoHearts way!

Execution Strategy

Project Breaking Down Communication Barriers incorporates proven methodologies from cross disciplinary collaboration facilitated by career healthcare professionals and educators. The following is a description of how the project will be developed.

Project Approach

Advertisements for Project BDCB will go out to local churches, non-profits, schools and community organizations that serve the disability community. From start to finish the project will rely heavily on cross disciplinary sharing of knowledge and know how. An informational meeting and participant screening will be held initially to present Project BDCB to the City of [your city name] and surrounding areas. Following, a meet-and-greet will serve to build relationships amongst all parties involved while taking part in social games and crafts. The ideal participants should be:

·         18+ years

·         Verbal

·         Moderate to high functioning

·         Demonstrating average independence in the community

Each member will have a record of his/her case history on file with CoHearts detailing their strengths and weaknesses. Program surveys will be completed to assess each participant’s knowledge of police safety rules before the training begins and then afterwards to measure retention of training content. Case managers will accommodate the unique needs of their group members assigned making modifications to curriculum whenever possible. Over the period of 3 sessions, the officers and members of the disability community will undergo 10-12 hours total (4 hours per day) of structured learning, games and interactive training scenarios. Private individual or group training sessions can be scheduled at a later date.


Sponsorships and donors will be solicited for the following resources:

·         Crafts, writing supplies, printer and laminator accessibility

·         Food and beverages to cover 2 meals (breakfast and lunch) and a snack each day for all participants

·         Venue access that will include a power point projector, white boards, chairs and tables and outside space to perform police encounter scenarios.

·         Media system including microphones, speakers, etc.

·         Games, technology and devices for entertainment.


*Timeline for Execution (To Be Determined)


Expected Results

We expect our proposed training program to provide the following results:

Law Enforcement’s Benefits

·    Increased trust within the community at large.

·    Training that results in better identification of those with unique needs and the behaviors they may present.

·    Communication strategies to simplify instruction so compliance comes easier.

·    De-escalation strategies to calm a disability community member that may be in crisis.

·    Practical take-a- ways that officers can share with colleagues throughout the department.

·    New relationships that can last a life time.

Disability Community’s Benefits

·    Space to engage with officers to ask questions that will disarm negative stereotypes.

·    Safety instruction presented in a multisensory way, making comprehension easy.

·    Power to embrace both their strengths and weakness lending itself to the importance of self-disclosure.

·    Increased comfort during exploration of the world around them.

·    Relationships built within the program that can last a life time.

Other Benefits

Just as important as the disability community’s participation in the program, it is the sense of peace that parents stand to gain knowing their child is building relationships with law enforcement and healthcare professionals that care about them and are genuinely concerned about their wellbeing. Parents will also be able to take away from the training, information and resources to continue to help their child put what they’ve learned into practice. Project BDCB will gain more trust within the metroplex as a “go to” source for training programs that meet the needs of the community at large.


CoHearts Speech Therapy & Communication Services, PLLC looks forward to working with the [your city name] Police Department to aid in your increasing awareness and communication with the disability community. My cohorts and I are dedicated to undergirding your community relations in any way that we can. We are confident that we can meet any challenges ahead, and stand ready to partner with you all in delivering an effective training program.

If you have questions concerning this proposal, feel free to contact Darla Greene at your convenience by email at or by phone at 501-256-3222. We will be in touch with you next week to arrange a follow-up conversation on the proposal.

Thank you for your consideration,


Darla Greene, M.S CCC-SLP

Speech- Language Pathologist

CoHearts Speech Therapy & Communication Services, PLLC

Darla Greene