Small Badge, Big Difference for 8-year-old Autistic Boy

SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. - When a Walton County investigator knocks on the door of a Santa Rosa beach home, it's the beginning of a friendship with the youngest resident inside.
 
Kayden, 8, and Walton County Investigator Eric Welton met about two weeks ago when Welton was canvassing the area. He was asking nearby residents questions in reference to multiple vehicle burglaries. 
 
"He actually came out and hid behind his mom, and told her he was scared, which we never like to hear that," said Welton. 
 
Welton says he did everything he could to ease Kayden's mind and let him know police are someone he can come to trust.
 
"I also ended up giving him a badge," said Welton. 
 
"He was just so enamored by this badge," said Kayden's mom, Sylvia Broad-Abercrombie. "(He) kept it on him, wanted it with him, close to him."
 
He won't stop wearing the small pin, because to him it's such more more than a small piece of plastic. 
 
"It's my lucky badge," said Kayden. "It keeps me from being scared."
 
It's also a confirmation anything is possible for the young boy, who aspires to one day wear the real thing. He said he'd like to become a security guard and keep watch.
 
"I just want to protect the world from bad things."
 
The bond these two share makes Investigator Welton feel good and almost brought Kayden's mom to tears.
 
"It just warmed my heart," said Abercrombie-Broad. "I  just was so thankful, you know, he had that positive experience."
 
A positive experience in a world where she says there are too many negative ones between children and first responders with developmental disabilities. Kayden was recently diagnosed with autism.
 
"Sometimes it's not a positive interaction and that's something I'm very scared of as Kayden gets older and becomes a teenager."
 
Welton is trained with how to respond to autistic children and the Walton County Sheriff's Office hosts crisis prevention training quarterly.
 
"It makes me feel better as Kayden gets older that there is that relationship built with officers and that they understand what autism is," said Abercrombie-Broad. She said the next step for Walton county would be to implement a Vulnerable Persons Registry for autistic children.
 
What was suppose to be a quick stop in Welton's investigation, led to so much more, and proved small things can make a big difference. 
 
"Something as little as talking to him and giving him a badge, can make such a big difference to some people," said Welton. "It's a good feeling for sure."
 

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