Metro East mum asks for ‘Autism Zone’ sign near home to keep her son safe

SOUTH ROXANA, Ill. (KMOV) – A small act of kindness is making a big difference to a Metro East family.

People in South Roxana, Illinois may see a new sign the next time they visit one of the parks. Ali Harris’s 6-year-old son Kyren is autistic and cannot speak. Since buying a home of her own in South Roxana, Harris says she wants to have an “Autism Zone” sign for people to know. She hopes it will prevent people from speeding on her road.

“Kids with autism, they don’t see danger,” Harris said. “They don’t see any danger. When they see a car, they don’t see fast and dangerous. They see the wheel and that can be visually stimulating for them to draw them in, not out. “

Another major reason for wanting this sign is that they live right across the street from a park in South Roxana. Harris and her son spend almost every day playing outside. Signs will help let other parents know what they can expect at the park.

“Oh that kid doesn’t talk, that’s why they don’t talk,” Harris said. “My child is trying to talk to them and I can explain to my child. It’s not awkward for me to have to explain to their children.”

One day while Harris was working at a restaurant, South Roxana Police Chief Bob Coles walked in. She asked if the “Autism Zone” sign was an option outside her home. Within days, Sheriff Coles made sure it was in place.

“When she told me about it, to be honest, I didn’t think about it,” Sheriff Coles said. “I knew I would do it.”

Not only does it help Harris, but Chief Coles says it could help future first responders.

“If we go to a scene and see a sign outside a house, we’re going to have to think twice about going in,” Sheriff Coles said. “We had issues with 15, 16-year-olds and they were speechless and the police were not aware of it at the time, which can create some tense moments.”

Harris told News 4 that being a parent of an autistic child can feel lonely. This sign allows her to finally feel seen.

“Use your voice for them,” she says. “Do not stop. Keep pushing because nothing happens if you don’t speak up.”

The sign has only been up for a few days, but Harris said she’s been less aware of speeding on her roads.

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