Law Enforcement & Autism: Understanding is Needed

By Lisa Ackerman

Headlines regarding autism and law enforcement over the past months have been disturbing. In the last week, two headlines, in particular, grabbed the attention of any parent of a child with autism. The first story: a parent’s worst nightmare had actually happened with a police shooting of a caretaker/*behavior therapist who was supervising an adult diagnosed with autism¹. And the second of a child with autism being tasered and restrained by the police²
It’s going to become a bigger problem. Our police and all first responders need more training and support on autism³  If we don’t I am afraid these recent news stories will be the first of many.
While there are many understanding and incredible police officers and first responders we need more in our community to understand autism. Autism affects 1 in 68 with estimates closer to 1 in 454 This will require community efforts to make training and awareness happen.
Here’s what parents can do:
1- Contact your local fire and police departments to register your child in your community. Help them know a person with autism lives at your address.
2- Introduce your child to local police and fire personnel where you can talk to them and your child about emergencies.
3- Work with your therapy team to train your child what to do during an emergency.
4- Encourage your first responders to better understand autism and request training. Be part of that solution and help them advocate for training.
We need to help our first responders be prepared for the individuals living with autism in their community.
We must act as a community to help those who need our protection.
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References:

NOTE:  * Reports initially specific the person with the individual with autism in Florida as a caretaker. This individual is better identified as a behavioral therapist. This is an update from the initial release of this blog.

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