How Police Should Interact With Autistic Individuals (A Guide)

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At a young age, the average child starts to develop and may show signs of autism. It can be difficult for parents and children to distinguish these symptoms as well as understanding what is best for their autistic loved one in this confusing time. This guide will teach you how police should interact with an individual on the spectrum when handling cases that are not serious enough for medical attention or jail time.,

The “autism police card” is a guide for law enforcement officers on how to interact with autistic individuals. The article provides information about the different types of autism, what it looks like, and how to best handle an individual in crisis.


Police personnel must be taught in detecting the indicators of autism and conversing correctly with people on the spectrum in order to communicate successfully with autistic people. People with autism have behavioral and communication difficulties that must be adequately handled.

When dealing with autistic people, police officers should try to maintain cool, limit excessive stimuli, provide a clear explanation of the problem, and give the person more time to answer.

If police officers can adapt their typical approach to accommodate the communication requirements of someone with autism, the situation will likely stay calm, the autistic person will feel less anxiety, and the experience will be more pleasant and constructive for everyone involved.

Getting Along With Autistic People

Autism causes a wide range of behavioral and verbal impairments, which may make social interactions difficult. Because autistic people often misread social cues and have trouble engaging with others, they must be approached with caution. Social settings, particularly those that are unexpected and stressful, may be difficult.

Autistic people have a hard time understanding what is required of them and responding properly to others. They may also lack the confidence to speak properly, particularly if they have had previous unfavorable encounters.

Communication difficulties are common in persons with autism, including:

  • It’s difficult to focus on what’s being said.

  • They have difficulty absorbing what others say to them.

  • Open-ended inquiries cause a lot of confusion.

  • Not seeking assistance.

  • Taking things too seriously.

  • If they don’t like what they’re being asked to do, they’ll strike out violently.

  • Reactions to the word “no” that are negative.

  • Nonverbal communication has its limitations.

  • Echolalia is the act of repeating what is stated to them.

While the above factors make communicating with someone who has autism difficult, it is not impossible. By gaining an understanding of challenges many autistic individuals face, police and other individuals can learn effective strategies for successfully Getting Along With Autistic People.

What the Cops Should Do

With one out of every 44 children in the United States being diagnosed with autism, police officers are likely to come into touch with persons on the spectrum at some point throughout their employment. As a result, police personnel must be informed on the wide spectrum of behaviors that someone with autism may display.

Police personnel may take practical efforts to appropriately identify someone with autism and prevent misconceptions. These stages are as follows:

  • Make a concerted effort to learn about autism.

  • Learn how to understand persons with autism’s clues.

  • Take part in training classes to learn how to work with this group of people.

It might be difficult to tell whether someone has autism just by looking at them or conversing with them. Someone with autism may say a lot yet understand very little, or they may not communicate at all but grasp everything well. Conventional autistic features, such as not making eye contact or smiling, might be misunderstood by police as signaling a violent person when the individual just has autism and has difficulty with typical social interactions and behavior.

Education on the features of autism and how autistic people are likely to react in stressful circumstances may help make encounters between police officers and people with autism more beneficial for everyone involved.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

The term “autism spectrum disorder” (ASD) encompasses a wide variety of behavioral and communicative issues. Some persons with ASD are considered high-functioning, and engaging with them may not reveal that they have autism. People on the other end of the spectrum have significant communication and behavior problems, making it hard for them to live freely.

Autism Spectrum Disorders, which are based on severity level, are as follows:

  • Level 1, needing assistance: People with Level 1 ASD may typically live independently with the right supports. They have certain social communication difficulties, which may make it difficult to begin social contacts and react correctly to social signals. Inflexibility, difficulties transitioning, and challenges with organization and planning are all examples of challenging behaviors.

  • Level 2, needing significant support: Even with supports in place, people with Level 2 autism show evident deficiencies in verbal and nonverbal communication abilities, as well as poor social skills. Inflexibility, trouble dealing with change, confined or repeated actions, discomfort, and/or difficulties altering their focus or activity are all examples of challenging behaviors.

  • Level 3, needing extensive support: A person with Level 3 ASD has significant verbal and nonverbal communication difficulties, and may be completely nonverbal. They only react to extremely direct social advances and initiate limited social interactions and replies to others. Inflexible behavior, considerable trouble with change, great discomfort and difficulties shifting focus or activities, and confined or repeated habits that interfere with all areas of functioning are all examples of challenging behaviors.

When engaging with people who have autism, particularly those who have severe autism, more caution is required. Individuals with severe autism have significant problems comprehending and expressing themselves. They may also have a flight reaction to stressful events, putting themselves and others in grave risk in order to get away from the painful scenario.

Do’s & Don’ts for Police Officers

Interacting with people who have developmental difficulties may be difficult. It’s difficult to determine what you should and shouldn’t attempt.

To help police officers and other officials gain a better understanding of appropriate techniques to use when Getting Along With Autistic People, the National Autistic Society of the UK produced an autism guide for police officers.

Officers should do the following in addition to identifying the symptoms that they may be dealing with an autistic person:

  • Maintain a cool attitude throughout the circumstance.

  • Be aware that your words may be perplexing to the other person.

  • Any sirens or flashing lights should be turned off.

  • When looking for injuries, be as gentle as possible.

  • Explain the problem succinctly and plainly.

  • To illustrate the problem, use visual aids and supports.

  • Use language that is clear, succinct, and easy to understand.

  • Allow additional time for the individual to comprehend and react to what is being communicated.

  • Use simple, straightforward inquiries that concentrate on a single topic at a time.

Police officers should avoid certain things when Getting Along With Autistic People.

  • Try not to be offended by the person’s strange conduct or reaction.

  • Make no effort to halt the person’s unusual or repetitious actions.

  • If the individual has a security item for comfort, don’t take it away.

  • If at all possible, avoid touching the individual or using handcuffs.

  • Make an effort not to raise your voice.

  • Avoid using sarcasm or metaphorical language.

  • If you have a query, don’t expect an answer right away.

  • Do not consider the absence of eye contact as a sign of suspicion.

Interacting with individuals with developmental disabilities is complicated and presents with challenges many police officers are unfamiliar with. By increasing your personal tool kit of techniques for working with autistic individuals, you will be better prepared to Maintain a cool attitude throughout the circumstance. This can help to produce a full understanding of events that transpired.

How Should Autistic People Interact With Cops?

Although autism spectrum disorder knowledge and comprehension has improved dramatically in the United States, many individuals still do not have a good grasp of the diagnosis and how it affects communication. As a result, persons with autism must be prepared to deal with police officers in a safe and effective manner.

Most law enforcement officers and first responders, according to autism safety specialist Dennis Debbaudt, get little to no training on how to properly engage with people on the autistic spectrum when they meet them in the field. Mr. Debbaudt suggests the following ideas to assist police officers and other authorities realize you have autism and how it will likely affect your interaction:

  • Provide a card for handouts. Make a card that you may give to cops and other persons when you come into touch with them unexpectedly. The card should provide a short description of autism and how it affects your communication and conduct. Make many copies of the card and keep in mind that it may be readily changed.

  • A medical alert bracelet should be worn at all times. If unexpected interactions make it impossible for you to speak verbally, a medical alert bracelet may give police with the information you need. It may also inform them that an extra handout card is available for them to read.

  • Make your diagnosis public. It is entirely up to you whether or not you choose to inform an officer of your diagnosis. Officers, on the other hand, can make better judgements if they have more information. Practice telling people you trust about your diagnosis so you’re comfortable and have a strategy on how to utilize your handout card.

There are additional things to consider when you find yourself in an unexpected scenario with police, in addition to appropriately revealing your diagnosis and giving authorities with information about your communication skills. It’s critical to keep in mind the following:

If you have been the victim of a crime or have anything to report to the police, you may ask the officers to put you in touch with an advocate, a family member, or a friend to assist you. Have emergency contact information on hand for those who are familiar with your illness and can assist you in tough circumstances.

Mr. Debbaudt’s website offers a variety of autism training materials for law enforcement, including downloadable resources, training videos, and legal help information.

Ensured Security

The purpose of raising police officers’ knowledge of how autistic people are likely to react in a scenario with law enforcement is to protect the safety of all parties involved.

Unfamiliar and unexpected events cause a lot of tension and worry for autistic people. The more police can do to keep the person calm and informed about what is going on, the better the individual’s experience will be.

Similarly, teaching autistic people how to behave effectively with police officers and rehearsing these encounters using handout cards ahead of time may dramatically enhance everyone’s results.


A Guide for Police Officers and Staff on Autism (2017). The National Autistic Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with autism.

DSM-5 Criteria for Autism Diagnosis. Autism Speaks.

Having a conversation (May 2017). The National Autistic Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of

Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. (March 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Interacting with the authorities. Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about

What Happens When Autistic People Interact With Cops. (Updated June 2017). The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is a non-profit organization dedicated to the treatment of addiction and mental

The “autism police training” is a guide that discusses how the police should interact with autistic individuals. It also includes suggestions on what to do if an autistic individual becomes violent.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should you interact with someone with autism?

A: This is a difficult question to answer since autism is not an easy condition to understand. There are some general guidelines that may help you when interacting with someone on the spectrum. Its important to remember that everyone has their own unique situation so it can be hard for others sometimes get how they feel about certain things. Dont expect anyone else to know what your friend feels or think, just listen and try your best! In any interaction, make sure youre not making assumptions of them based off something from themselves such as their name or outward appearance

How can you communicate with autistic individuals?

A: There is no certain answer to this. It depends on what you mean by communicating with autistic individuals. If you want a general idea, I would say that in order for them to communicate, they need direct eye contact and also have an understanding of their situation as well as the other persons perspective.

What strategies can be used to help ASD individuals cope in everyday situations?

A: There are many different strategies that can be used for ASD individuals to increase their ability to cope in everyday situations. Some may work better than others depending on the individual and situational factors, but some of these include using coping skills such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness training, or social skill training.

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