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

More Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2023-02-14
Unit 1Presentation Materials: More Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Unit 2Transcript: More Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Unit 3Workbook: More Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Unit 4Recording: More Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are seven times more likely to have encounters with law enforcement than the general public. The difference in their brain function and inherent characteristics results in a greater likelihood for them to become victimized or perpetrators themselves. This webinar aims to help us understand what ASD is, how folks on the spectrum find themselves interacting with law enforcement, and strategies to better navigate these encounters.

Back on the Justice Clearinghouse to lead this webinar is renowned expert, Wes Dotson. He is an Associate Professor in the Special Education Department in the College of Education and the Director of Applied Behavior Intervention Services at the Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri. He has over 20 years of experience in special education and clinical practice working with individuals with different developmental disabilities.

Specifics of his discussion include:

  • What ASD is, the diagnostic criteria for ASD, and how these look like and manifest in an individual’s daily life.
  • How being literal, having poor social perception and unusual sensory responses, and being repetitive and routine-driven of individuals on the spectrum tend to cause problems in their interactions with authorities.
  • Facts and figures demonstrating how those in the spectrum are more likely to get entangled with the criminal justice system as victims or offenders.
  • The increased awareness when it comes to recognizing ASD and the progress society’s had so far in integrating folks with ASD into the community.
  • Behavioral cues and visual indicators that may suggest a person may have ASD.
  • Tips for interaction with people with ASD that emphasizes giving time, creating space, simplifying the environment, providing stability and predictability, ignoring their repetitive behavior, and using visual and simple communication.
  • Case reviews were provided with incident details, the ASD characteristics presented, and the response and management provided.
    • Case 1: How a hospital patient with ASD symptoms of sensory sensitivities and difficulty with language and communication was initially treated by hospital staff and how the hospital PD was able to make him calm and compliant.
    • Case 2: How a college student with ASD’s fixation with feet, inability to notice non-verbal cues, and literal interpretation of guidance surrounding consent resulted in a harassment complaint, and how the campus police prevented the situation from escalating.
    • Case 3: The Title IX Coordinator’s dilemma balancing ensuring the campus remains safe for students, mitigating liability risks, and providing necessary accommodations for the student with ASD.
  • Effective behaviors and promising practices when interacting with individuals on the spectrum gleaned from the cases.
    • Utilizing time and space to gather information and create a stable environment.
    • Giving advance notice to create a sense of predictability.
    • Using clear language and providing the space and chance to explain.
    • Making an effort to understand what’s going on by listening to everyone affected.
    • Accommodating the needs of the individual with ASD as well as the victims.
    • Referring to a professional with a better understanding of the behavior and challenges of someone with ASD.
  • How awareness and understanding of ASD symptoms can greatly improve the outcomes of interactions for folks with autism by preventing violence and problematic behaviors.
  • The importance of hearing victims’ perspectives and not using autism as an excuse to invalidate their experience.
  • How the basic strategies of giving time, creating space, simplifying an environment, and communicating clearly applies to everyone, not just those with ASD.

Questions from the webinar participants are about:

  • The impact of the dearth of research on adult autism on how officers respond.
  • How to interact with individuals with ASD who are overstimulated and are not able to communicate coherently at the moment.
  • Reducing the likelihood of negative interactions with law enforcement for children with ASD.


Other Webinars with this Speaker


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


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Suggestions and advice for how to provide space and time and recognize signs in order to more appropriately respond.” — Amy
  • “This is a really important topic, and I think that our field should learn more about working with survivors with ASD. We need more people like Dr. Wes! Thank you.” — Clara
  • “It was all such great information and will come in very handy! Thanks.” — Dena
  • “I appreciated the definition of autism spectrum disorder and the explanation of difficuty with social communication.” — Dedra
  • “I work on a Community College campus and could relate to the scenario about “feet”. My Title IX Coordinator and I worked with a student who liked long hair and would follow students and staff around the campus. We were able to meet with him and the victims; similar outcomes to what happened in the scenario. This was a great workshop, very helpful information. Thank you.” — Deneen
  • “Practical information…I work in a college/university setting so the examples pertaining to the higher ed world are helpful.” — Erinn
  • “I appreciated the social services/Title IX follow-up scenario to the initial college student/officer interaction scenario…the ‘what then’ perspective was helpful and informative. The addition of ‘clarity’ to the time and space components for officer interactions was also helpful – thank you so much for a balanced, informative presentation!!!” — Janet
  • “Everything was important, and it was a stellar presentation. The content and pace worked for me. Most important was the first section about what ASD is, how to recognize it, and how to approach those with ASD.” — John
  • “Great topic. Great presenter!!!!” — Kenny
  • “Patience and understanding go a long way with dealing with a person with Autism.” — Kyle
  • “I appreciate the websites you shared with attendees. Thank you.” — Miranda
  • “The presenter did a great job sharing the definition of ASD and also what is the most important thing when interacting with people with ASD.” — Salamawit
  • “The real-life scenarios were very informative, and I liked the poll options to consider what we might do before you took us through the case. Really excellent presentation.” — Bethany
  • “I am autistic and attended to get an idea of what information about autism is being taught and so I can continue to refine my understanding of what people are expecting of me and what aspects of my autism might be problematic. From my perspective, this webinar was excellent. I was impressed by how up-to-date Wes is on autism information and did an amazing job describing and explaining it. I wish agencies would make this webinar mandatory for their officers.” — Mary
  • “I just wanted to say that this was honestly the best webinar that I’ve ever listened to, and I hope that Dr. Wes Dotson does more in the future. Thank you so much.” — Krystal
  • “As someone on the spectrum, who works in juvenile justice, this training was absolutely spectacular. Thank you so much for providing people in the Justice field with this kind of information and training to improve the safety of all involved, including the person on the spectrum.” — Emily


Additional Resources
1 year ago
After the Webinar: More Case Studies in Criminal Justice Interactions with People with ASD. Q&A with Dr. Wes Dotson
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