“Autism Awareness” has become an increasingly important topic as the numbers of people with this diagnosis continue to grow. More than 3.5 million Americans live with an Autism Spectrum Disorder – or, as according to the CDC, roughly 1 in 68 births in the US, with its prevalence growing 119% since 2000.
This growth holds unique implications for first responders and other justice personnel.
Justice professionals recognize the need to hone their knowledge about the autism spectrum so that they can react swiftly, safely, and appropriately to a person who has – or whom they suspect of having – autism. Due to their difficulties in processing the hidden cues in social interactions, the actions and intentions of people with autism may be misunderstood or exploited by others, resulting in calls for police intervention.
Police may also become involved when people with autism wander off to do some exploring, only to become lost and unable to contact their caregivers. Medical, fire, and other safety emergencies may be complicated by difficulties in communicating with people on the spectrum, as well as by the sensory sensitivities of autism, which may result in overwhelming anxiety and panicked reactions.
Yet people with autism are intelligent, sociable, and willing to cooperate with respectful responders if they receive the right support. By paying attention to the communicative, social, and sensory needs of the person with autism, as well as to the effects that their own presence and actions may create, we can all help to ensure a safe, positive outcome.
During this session, designed for first responders (i.e., police, fire, and EMS) and other justice practitioners (social services, prosecutors, victim advocates, judicial personnel and probation officers) in mind, you will learn to:
• Recognize the signs that a person may be on the autism spectrum,
• Explore what an autism diagnosis does and does not mean,
• Acquire a basic awareness of the communicative, social and sensory needs of people with autism and how they may respond to anxiety and stress,
• Understand how to approach and interact with individuals with autism, especially under difficult circumstances.