People with autism are significantly more likely to interact with law enforcement officials than those without disabilities. These encounters can become tense, even dangerous, when the police officers on the scene fail to recognize the signs of autism and mishandle the situation. It happens more often than you might think.
When a police officer encountered Connor Leibel in a park in 2017, he misinterpreted Leibel’s stimming for drug use and forcibly restrained him. A number of police departments around the country have taken steps following incidents like this to incorporate autism education and information into their training.
For families of people with autism, OAR recommends working with community police departments to find out what autism-related training their police officers receive and offer to help in cases where such programs are not in place. These safety resources can you and your local police department in this important joint effort:
- Seminar in Crisis Safety for the ASD Population: Scott Fowler, co-founder of AutismOutreachNetwork, delivered a webinar presentation on safety and crisis preparation back in April. In the webinar, he shares his insight about and advice on collaborating with law enforcement.
- Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide to Safety: OAR’s safety guide identifies common safety threats across the lifespan for individuals with autism and offers guidance on developing plans that address critical areas, including wandering, environmental threats, and community safety. It also includes sample ID forms that can be shared with first responders, so that they know individuals with autism in the area before incidents occur.
- Autism Risk & Safety Management: Dennis Debbaudt has more than 25 years of experience in autism and law enforcement training. He continues to offer training videos, training sessions, and legal assistance.
- Project Lifesaver: Project Lifesaver provides wearable locating technology for at-risk populations, community policing courses, and more. This organization has helped families locate and rescue their loved ones more than 3,000 times since it was established back in 1999.