First responders and justice professionals deal with people from all walks of life and it makes all the difference when they know how to best respond and interact with them. According to the CDC, one in 59 people have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A successful and capable population, 3 in 5 of people with ASD go to college. At this rate, any police officer, dispatcher or firefighter would have had a chance to interact with them at one point or another.
This session’s instructor is Dr. Wes Dotson. He is currently the Director of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research where he oversees various initiatives focused on autism identification and treatment. He’s spent more than 18 years in the field of Special Education and is currently an Associate Professor in the Special Education Program at Texas Tech University.
On this course, Dr. Dotson will unpack ASD to help us identify and interact with individuals on the spectrum. Points he discussed include:
- An example of an incident where a lack of awareness resulted in less-than-ideal outcomes for a student with autism.
- What Autism Spectrum Disorder is, statistics on its prevalence, causes, and diagnostic criteria.
- How ASD manifests as fixation on routine, deficits in social communication and interaction, patterns in behavior, and inability to comprehend non-verbal cues and foster relationships.
- Pointers to set expectations on how interactions with individuals with ASD are likely going to be.
- Recognizing an individual with ASD by:
- Familiarizing with common struggles, behaviors or tells as lack of eye contact, repetitive behavior, literal response or lack of response to language, and unusual response to stimuli.
- Acquainting with symbols associated with ASD.
- How families and the individuals can help others in the community identify that they or their loved ones have ASD.
- How the behavioral manifestations of ASD tend to create problems when interacting with first responders during critical incidents.
- What to do and keep in mind to reduce the likelihood of challenges and issues when interacting with individuals with ASD.
- Guidelines on how to de-escalate the situation when a person with autism is showing to be overwhelmed and anxious.
- Questions from the webinar participants are about:
- How a dispatcher may recognize if a caller is likely to have ASD.
- Talking to a child with ASD about abuse or trauma.
- Resources on and agencies that implement best practices.
- Means to communicate with non-verbal individuals with autism.
- How individuals with ASD tend to cling to a person considered their safe place when overwhelmed.
- Intense eye contact as an indicator of ASD.
- Ideas to help someone with autism reduce their stress due to sensory sensitivities.
This is the first of a 4 part series, including:
- December 5: Recognizing the Signs of Victimization in Children with ASD
- January 8: Wandering and Elopement in Children with ASD and NCMEC Resources
- February 4: Case Studies in Law Enforcement Encounters with Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- “I work in Adult Probation and know we will see more clients in the coming years with ASD. This training gave a fantastic outline on how to effectively communicate with clients with ASD.” — Allison
- “Thank you, this topic is very interesting. I found the real-life scenarios and application suggestions very helpful and applicable.” — Angelica
- “Dr. Dotson was an engaging speaker and I enjoyed this webinar very much.” — Dawn
- “How to help children and adults on the spectrum feel more comfortable in stressful situations. I am involved in CPS and this helped me understand how a child with autism will express more stress than other children when involved in CPS. Great presentation with many real-life examples.” — Geri
- “I liked the different strategies to recognize and then be able to deescalate the situation.” — Julie
- “Dr. Dotson very compassionately and professionally bridged the gap between what law enforcement is charged to do and how ASD can be a barrier to that work. He provided common sense and easily-implemented tools to assist in communication and regulation. I appreciated it very much!” — Margaret
- “I currently work with an individual who is autistic and this webinar gave me information on how I can interact with this individual to make the environment and experience more positive for both of us.” — Niki