There are many people who have not experienced having an interaction with someone with autism. For those that are unaware of the symptoms of autism, these interactions may be difficult because those with autism may lack social communicative skills. This struggle can be found specifically among those with autism and police, where these skills are crucial.
After a heartbreaking video goes viral of a man being forcibly restrained while having a seizure (which was seen as displaying signs of failure to comply), the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in London pushed for efforts to better these incidents among people and police. This video sparked change to be enacted, starting with the issue of autism alert cards.
These cards will be distributed to those with autism and will alert police that this person might have difficulty in social interactions, stressful situations, and/or unpredictable behavior. The Metropolitan Police Service tells CNN, “The autism cards will be handed out via autism partnership boards and police throughout the UK capital and will provide information about how the condition manifests itself as well as personal information about the cardholder.”
Clare Hughes, Criminal Justice Manager at the National Autistic Society, tells CNN that these cards “should allow officers to adapt their communication or actions, so they can make sure they treat autistic people appropriately and with respect.” These encounters with police can be extremely stressful and overwhelming for anyone, especially for someone with autism. Moving forward, being able to combat these high-stakes interactions will prevent any miscommunication for those involved.
These cards will help spread awareness to police and others about children and adults with autism and will provide a more knowledgeable approach to dealing with people with autism in these types of situations. The use of this card will provide others with an explicit explanation for someone’s behavior and will allow others to become more aware of how to speak with and react to those with autism in different circumstances.