The Autism Society of Colorado recently hosted a training session for local law enforcement and family members of individuals with autism. The two-day training session had a number of goals: to educate law enforcement about autism, to explain how to appropriately interact with individuals on the spectrum, and to educate family members of individuals on the spectrum on how to interact with law enforcement.

Many members of law enforcement do not fully understand the particular behaviors and triggers for an individual on the autism spectrum, or the difficulties faced by family members in caring for them. In an emergency situation, yelling, intense questioning, loud sirens, and bright flashing lights can be overwhelming for those who may experience difficulties with sensory overload, communication, or social situations.

Even without having interacted with police and other members of law enforcement, individuals with autism are already at greater risk of violence than their neurotypical counterparts. The World Health Organization indicates that children with disabilities are 3.7 times more likely than non-disabled children to experience violence and adults with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely than non-disabled persons to experience violence.

One example of such violence was when Chase Coleman, a teenage boy with autism, took part in a cross-country meet and got lost, only to be physically assaulted by a man and left traumatized from the incident.

Photo Credit: Washington Post

Similarly, in July 2016 Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto, a man with autism,  wandered from his group home which ultimately escalated into a situation where Charles Kinsey, his therapist, was shot in the leg by police.

Photo Credit: American Autism Association

In light of such instances, it’s evident that training is essential for the safety of civilians and law enforcement alike. Training programs like those being hosted by The Autism Society of Colorado or the Special Needs Awareness Program (SNAP) in Tennessee are examples of important actions being taken by community members.

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