Autism For Parents

8 May 06

Autism and interaction with law enforcement

Filed under: Autism,Planning — Brett @ 2051

As part of planning for growing up and transition to adulthood, here are two key things to consider related to your autistic child and potential future interactions with law enforcement:

  • Include education about the purpose and appropriate behaviors towards law enforcement personnel and agencies as part of IEP and other planning documents
  • Check with your local first responders (police, fire, emergency medical, etc) about their level of awareness of autism and appropriate training in handling autistic citizens. Help these agencies improve their awareness and training, if needed.

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Charles Fox, on his Special Education Law Blog, has a link to and discussion of the report Avoiding Unfortunate Situations. From the report's introduction:

Law enforcement agencies in the 21st Century are embracing community policing and better education for their increasingly diverse workforce. There is also a growing interest in the global autism community to bring public awareness of autism and the people it affects to law enforcement professionals. As a parent of a young man with autism and reporter/researcher on this topic since 1991, I hope to bring you useful information about autism and the law enforcement community. Sharing critical autism recognition and response information with our law enforcement, first response, criminal justice and educational communities is my mission. The goal? Better community experiences for everyone.

A couple of key discussion points that Charles raises:

One of the truly remarkable statistics referenced in this report is that"[p]ersons with autism and other developmental disabilities are estimated to have up to seven times more contacts with law enforcement agencies during their lifetimes (Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services News In Print, Winter, 1993)." In view of the likelihood of contact between law enforcement and persons with disabilities, these guidelines should be considered in developing IEP goals, BIPs and transition plan goals.

The level of candor of this report is refreshing. It openly states in the training section for police that "[a]utism issues remain un-addressed in standard police officer training programs." … Moreover, one area of inquiry should be to your local police, fire and paramedics as to their level of autism training and awareness.

The main part of the report includes sections on What Families Can Do To Reduce Police Interactions and Information for Persons with Autism. The site also includes a Law Enforcement Handout.



  1. Hi there, I just finished a blog post rounding up “IEP Season” at

    with reports from parents with kids with all kinds of issues.

    My local fire department has an excellent resource

    ” “When Words Are Not Enough”

    “An educational tool for Fire Department personnel and other “First Responders”

    Communicating with individuals who have impaired communication skills due to various physical, psycho-social, developmental, and or learning disabilities can be extremely challenging to first responders at an emergency scene. In fact, lack of communication ability between emergency personnel and their patients can waste valuable time in initial medical assessments, risk further injury to the patient, require additional personnel to help with individual, and sometimes compromise necessary treatment and or transport

    Text Box: Communicating with individuals who have various physical, psycho-social, developmental, and learning disabilities that may be adversely affecting communication.

    Program Design: This program is designed as an educational tool for fire department “first responders”, children in special education classes and other individuals who may have difficulty communicating during emergencies because of a disability. ”

    There’s also LEAN on us

    and another, can’t think of it now.

    The “When Words Are Not Enough” program can be used by parents to educate their own local law enforcement organizations.

    Comment by liz — 5 Jun 06 @ 1904 | Reply

  2. Thanks !

    Comment by Liexenquite — 3 Aug 08 @ 0904 | Reply

  3. I love your site!

    Experiencing a slow PC recently? Fix it now!

    Comment by Michael Tim — 28 Feb 09 @ 1713 | Reply

  4. I co-chair an autism awareness and support group (EPEC: Exceptional Parents of Exceptional Children) in our “large” Vermont community. Our local police department has (and our state is developing) an autism database. Further, during EPEC’s most recent April “Celebrate the Spectrum” event, we took our loved ones and families living with autism to the local PD. We had a few demonstrations, discussions and a took a tour of the station house. It was a great experience both for the families and children as well as the law enforcement professionals. If you’d like more information on the Database, please contact me at, or visit my blog to read about the Database and many more of our own experiences:

    Comment by Jon Gilbert — 18 Aug 09 @ 2348 | Reply

  5. Here is what autism is NOT: It’s not a mentally ill clever person with sociopathic fixations that feigns they are autistic (aka criminal), it’s not the Horse Boy(a boy with ADHD who ended up liking horses), it’s NOT Amanda Baggs (who has a psychogenic case of autism, as in in her mind) It’s not Donna Williams–(a woman who has a multiple personality with one of them thinking she is autistic and being so convinced she’s actually studied the definition and learned to be autistic) It’s not Ari Ne’eman (who has aspergers ) It’s not Jenny McCarthy’s son (who has laundau kleffner never was autistic) If you want to see high functioning autism see Temple Grandin (who has autistic LIKE behaviors with severe aspergers) or the movie Rain Man. If you want to see a raw video coverage of severe autism where the young adult is punching self in head or having seizures go to you tube and type in: “autism self injury” or “reality shows you won’t see on tv about autism” or “severe autism when there is no answer”

    Comment by Katarine — 21 Feb 10 @ 2323 | Reply

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