New Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

New Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2024-02-27
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: New Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Unit 2 Transcript: New Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Unit 3 Workbook: New Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Unit 4 Recording: New Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Individuals with autism are 4 to 7 times more likely to have encounters with law enforcement than the general public. Characteristics distinct to autism typically put people on the spectrum at greater risk of problems with the police. This webinar delves into the dynamics of law enforcement interactions with individuals on the autism spectrum, underlining the pivotal role of specialized training to better navigate these.

Back on the Justice Clearinghouse is Wes Dotson, a Certified Behavior Analyst with over 20 years of experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum, their families, and the professionals who serve them. He works across the lifespan and in various settings these individuals are in.

Specifics discussed in the session include:

  • How Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a genetically rooted neurodevelopmental characteristic present from birth, influencing how individuals process information and interact with the world.
  • The two primary diagnostic criteria for ASD and its sub-characteristics.
    • Deficits in social communication and interaction seen as issues in social-emotional reciprocity, nonverbal communicative behaviors, and developing and maintaining relationships.
    • Presence of restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities which manifests as repetitive motor movements, insistence on routines, fixated interests, and hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input.
  • The defining characteristics of autism that cause problems in interactions with law enforcement – being literal, repetitive, and routine-driven, having poor social perceptions, and unusual sensory responses.
  • Facts and figures that illustrate how folks with autism are likely to encounter law enforcement due to running away, unusual public behavior and sexual offending, face victimization and childhood trauma, or be met with use of force.
  • Observable indicators to look out for that may suggest that an individual may be on the spectrum.
  • Tips when interacting with individuals with ASD that emphasize giving time and space, simplifying the environment, ignoring repetitive behavior, and giving advance notice to create a sense of stability and calm.
  • Three case studies that identify ASD characteristics of the subjects, how the officers’ behavior impacted the incidents’ outcome, and lessons learned and best practices from each of these.
    • An adult man seen pacing and acting erratically in a park that made other community members uncomfortable.
    • A young man who wanted to pass through a street that had been blocked off due to a fire as he was supposed to only take that route home.
    • A student from an alternative campus for those with behavioral disorders who went missing following a fight with another student and being reprimanded by the teacher.

Questions from the webinar participants are about:

  • Effective strategies when working with clients on the autism spectrum under supervised probation.
  • The effectiveness of virtual meetings for supervising individuals with autism.
  • Building effective working relationships with individuals with autism under supervision.
  • Challenges and strategies for interacting with individuals with autism in custody or jail settings.


Webinars with this Presenter


Or click here to view and register for other upcoming Law Enforcement webinars and recordings on the JCH Platform.


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Great webinar. Wish there was more time for Q&A but I am looking forward to your next webinar.”
  • “Excellent! Very informative. Thank you.”
  • “I appreciated the anecdotal information provided by the case studies. They provided practical “how to,” and “how not to” information.”
  • “Great presentation and makes you really think about the encounters people on the autism spectrum have in life with other people that we take for granted.”
  • “This webinar was very informative and I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know before.”
  • “The Presentation was well organized and very informative and answered some questions by presenting real presentations/scenarios. Very clear and concise information that is now in my Toolbox.”
  • “This was a fantastic webinar with a lot of practical, useful guidance about serving individuals with autism. Highly recommend!”
  • “Good Webinar, I appreciated the clear and easy guidance to remember simple steps to help a person with autism. The discussion of using the rigidity of following rules to your advantage instead of the disadvantage was very interesting.”
  • “Excellent webinar! I have learned a lot about the characteristics of ASD and ways to approach and deal with autistic clients. Thank you!”
  • “JCH always has such personable and knowledgeable presenters…”
  • “Very informational webinar on dealing with those with autism in the Criminal Justice field. Thank you, Wes!”
  • “The presenter was incredibly knowledgeable and provided me with several helpful skills to use as a Probation officer working with people diagnosed with ASD.”
  • “I thoroughly enjoyed the webinar. I have seen quite a few presentations on the subject and believe this to be one of the best. I will be pushing the recording of this webinar out to the rest of the department.”
  • “Enjoyed the scenarios, what the officer contributed to the issue, and tips for resolution/preventing escalation.”




This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.




Additional Resources
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After the Webinar: New Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with ASD. Q&A with Wes Dotson
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