Preparing for Rain Man: Police, Training and Autism



Jensen, Rachel Honor

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The CDC estimates that the prevalence of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder is 1 out of 68 in the United States. As the number of autism diagnoses rises along with the distinct lack of mental health resources, law enforcement have become the first line of contact for either individuals with autism or those close to them. Law enforcement have been thrust into the dual role of police officer and mental health provider. The range of severity of autism presents a unique challenge when training officers as it is difficult to provide thorough tools and skills while encompassing all of the situations they may encounter; in particular, the ability to communicate with and de-escalate individuals with autism who are high and low functioning. This thesis presents an analysis of training material provided to police on autism with a specific focus on communication and de-escalation. The analysis suggests that law enforcement needs more training on autism and how to communicate with individuals with autism to ensure both officer and citizen safety.



Police, Training, Policing, Autism, Crime policy, Evidence-based policy