Ipswich: Twitter profile helps connect Harry with the police officers he was so afraid of
- Credit: Archant
Kindness, understanding, and a very special bear have helped 11-year-old Harry Sandford conquer his fear of police officers.
Harry, of Romney Road, Ipswich has autism and learning difficulties. One of the manifestations of his condition was a phobia about officers in uniform.
However, after a Twitter account set up on his behalf by his mum Lizzie gained more than 6,200 followers in a month, Harry now has no problem saying “hello, hello, hello”.
Officers in Ipswich became aware of his difficulties through their own Twitter feed @Ipswichpolice.
Their intervention, aided by Harry’s Help for Heroes bear named Sergeant Teddy Bear, are credited with the progress he has made.
Lizzie said: “Being a vulnerable child he’s going to turn into a vulnerable teenager. We wanted to make sure community police were aware of him and vice versa.
“Harry doesn’t really like talking to people. Sergeant Teddy Bear goes everywhere with him.
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“He uses the bear as a way of communicating. If we want Harry to communicate we say ‘bear would like to know’. He’s a completely different child because of his bear.
“Inspector Andrew Mason arranged for Harry to go to Suffolk Police headquarters. He went into the operations room and then we went outside and met a dog handler with his dog Rex. Another dog handler came along and they played hide and seek with Harry and a dog.
“Harry wants as many people as possible to follow his adventures on Twitter. We are trying to raise awareness that there are kids like Harry. Harry’s incredibly proud of the number of followers he has. He thinks it’s great.”
Lizzie, 39, said Harry has also struck up a friendship with PCSO Ryan Althorpe of the South East Ipswich Safer Neighbourhood Team.
“Ryan’s been fantastic. He’s made a fantastic difference to Harry. Harry wouldn’t go near police before. Now the difference in him is unbelievable.”
Inspector Mason said: “Harry’s a lovely lad. All the officers have been delighted to meet him and help Harry overcome his concerns..
“Now his perceptions have changed, hopefully he will not hesitate to come to us if he ever needs assistance in the future.”
One of Harry’s Twitter followers, Val Latham, has given him another bear and a police uniform for it. As yet it does not have a name and Lizzie said Harry would like suggestions as to what to call it sent to his Twitter account @Sgt_TeddyBear #happyharry