Autism is a complex neurological disorder that impairs communication, behavior, and social interactions. Symptoms of autism can range from mild to severe, and no two individuals with autism are identical in their characteristics of autism. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism occurs in 1 in 68 individuals. This high prevalence means that you will undoubtedly encounter individuals with autism while carrying out your regular job responsibilities in communities or schools. Autism typically appears around the age or 2 or 3, and is a life-long condition.
Law enforcement and school resource officers may encounter individuals with autism for many reasons. Individuals with autism who are in public places may engage in behaviors that cause community members to be concerned or fearful. A child or adult with autism may get lost as a result of wandering away from a supervised area. School resource officers will encounter children and youth with autism in schools.
It is important that law enforcement and school resource officers be able to recognize signs that an individual may have autism, and then use the techniques we recommend in this program to help ensure that the encounter is resolved successfully. It is also important to avoid certain practices that may make situations involving individuals with autism worse.