Individuals on the autism spectrum are 4-7 times more likely to have encounters with law enforcement than the general public. Distinct traits and challenges that those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) present complexities when interacting with authorities including police officers, the courts, probation and parole, and corrections. Wes Dotson provides an overview of ASD and answers questions from criminal justice practitioners on the nuances, accommodations, interventions, and resources to help those working with folks with ASD improve their interactions.
Wes is a Behavior Analyst with over 20 years of experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum, their families, and the professionals who serve them. He is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who specializes in social skills, relationship development, and successful life outcomes for adolescents and young adults with autism.
An overview of ASD was provided which covered:
- How the prevalence of individuals in the spectrum living in the community makes their interactions with the criminal justice system common.
- The criteria for ASD diagnosis that examines deficits in social communication and interaction as well as stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.
- Studies that demonstrate the higher likelihood of individuals with ASD to have encounters with the justice system which only increases when co-morbid conditions exist.
- Pointers to recognize ASD by looking at their communication and response to the environment.
- Managing escalated folks with ASD by understanding that repetitive behaviors are coping mechanisms, simplifying their environment, communicating in simple and literal terms, and keeping things predictable.
Points raised on this AMA session include:
- Managing kids with autism who face higher disciplinary rates and exclusion from peers in school settings.
- How Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the most effective mental health treatment for individuals with autism due to its structured, rule-based approach.
- Instances when individuals with autism commit crimes due to coercion or missing social cues.
- The reason behind the increased prevalence of ASD.
- How prisons and treatment facilities can paradoxically provide stability for some autistic individuals due to its structured, predictable nature.
- Approaches to get an individual on the autism spectrum to comply.
- Establishing specialized courts for folks with ASD.
- Interventions for behavior modification through skills training.
- Whether therapy animals can be valuable for individuals with ASD.
- Strategies to distinguish uncooperativeness from autism traits.
- The applicability of restorative justice approaches to individuals with ASD.
- Differentiating CBT from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and their effectiveness for folks on the spectrum.
- When autism co-occurs with substance abuse or mental health disorders.
- Employment opportunities in law enforcement where someone with ASD would excel in.
- Helping individuals with ASD to be more at ease during forensic interviews and prevent false confessions.
- Deal with individuals with autism better through clear communication and providing additional processing time during interactions.
- Autism-specific de-escalation techniques and crisis intervention teams.
- The similarities and the main difference between ADHD and ASD.
- Preparing individuals with autism so they feel comfortable during court proceedings and testimonies.
- Inappropriate behaviors and sex-related offenses individuals with ASD may engage in due to a lack of understanding of boundaries.
- Preparing victims of violent crimes with autism for challenging defense attorney questions through practice and role-playing.
Other Webinars with this Speaker
- Feb 14, 2023: More Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with ASD
- Nov 2: Ask Me Anything: About Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Criminal Justice System (this webinar)
- Feb 27, 2024: New Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- “Great presentation involving ASD and the Justice System. More training is definitely needed by law enforcement.”
- “I would like to participate in a longer training about justice involved individuals with Autism – but this was very helpful. We are seeing quite a few Autistic offenders coming through Community Corrections. I learned that CBT is effective for Autistic people and will definitely keep that in mind for future clients!”
- “Asking a question to ASD and waiting… very helpful. That’s one of MANY!”
- “Great topic. Wes is very informative and knowledgeable. I’d really enjoy more on this topic.”
- “It was all very interesting and helpful.”
- “Learned a LOT! Great presenter!”
- “This is the first time I have attended a presentation that explained how people with Autism need to be treated within the justice system. This is very helpful for my work. The presenter was very clear and gave plenty of examples also.”
- “The “Ask me anything” questions. I found it was extremely valuable and great education to hear questions/answers from the different agencies and organizations.”
- “Learning what signs to look for in a person with autism and how to deal with them. I have learned a lot. I am an ex-corrections officer and looking back, I believe I may have dealt with a few inmates that possibly have autism.”
- “Great class with a lot of good information. The instructor was excellent and presented well. Thank you.”
- “I didn’t realize that individuals with autism were at higher risk for police interaction and arrests; that was very eye-opening to me. This entire webinar was extremely informative and empathetic, and while I am not law enforcement, it made me feel good to know that those on the force were attending to help better their community; I’m an Adult Protective Investigator, so I’ve seen the good and bad of law enforcement.”
- “Having a son who is autistic and working in the Justice Courts, this webinar helped me better understand how to engage with those who I am helping and recognize the signs.”