I found this article while I was doing some research, an I thought It might be interesting to share: AUTHOR: DENNIS DEBBAUDT and DARLA ROTHMAN TITLE: Contact with Individuals with Autism: Effective Resolutions SOURCE: FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 70 no4 20-4 Ap 2001 In contemporary 21st century law enforcement, police managers have become increasingly proactive in their efforts to develop officer awareness of volatile circumstances and situations. They want their officers to learn to properly handle these situations not only for the safety of the officers and citizens involved, but also to avoid future potential litigation. Because today's work force is increasingly diverse, new laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensure that persons with developmental disabilities remain a part of that diversity. Recent research concluded that the developmentally disabled are approximately seven times more likely to come in contact with law enforcement than others.(FN1) In light of this conclusion, law enforcement officers should receive training to prepare to evaluate information and physical cues or body language that may indicate the person they come in contact with has autism. Because autism affects every sector of society, officers first must understand the condition. Second, they must learn to apply certain techniques in the initial contact or interview, which may increase the probability of appropriate responses and lead to a successful outcome of the encounter. WHAT IS AUTISM? Autism is a developmental disability that manifests itself within the first 3 years of a child's life. While some individuals with autism have mental retardation, autism is not retardation. It is a broad spectrum neurological disorder, which presents itself in a variety of symptoms that affects individuals differently. Estimates of persons having some form of autism exceed 500,000 nationally, becoming the third most common developmental disability in the United States.(FN2) Autism affects the normal development of the brain relating to social and communicative interaction. Individuals with autism have difficulty appropriately communicating with, or relating to, others. When responding to a call that involves a person with autism, officers may face a situation that will challenge the training, instincts, and professional conduct of even the most experienced police veteran. Is the individual intoxicated? On narcotics? Or is the person developmentally disabled? WHERE ARE INDIVIDUALS WITH AUTISM USUALLY FOUND? Because approximately 80 percent of patrol responses do not involve criminal activity, contact with individuals with autism may occur anywhere in the community.(FN3) Because autism affects each individual differently, many people with autism often function well in society--they may have regular employment in a supervised or unsupervised workplace, and may live in traditional or assisted living homes. Therefore, the initial call for assistance to law enforcement may first appear as a domestic disturbance; however, upon arrival, the officers may receive information or otherwise determine that the subject is affected with autism and has reacted inappropriately to some event. The initial contact may be predicated by a request for medical assistance. Reports estimate that as many as 25 percent of individuals with autism will have seizures by the age of 21.(FN4) Other calls may involve complaints of strange behavior, such as being in an unfamiliar place or just wandering around or doing unusual things. Autistic persons have not developed the social awareness usually expected by others in the community. Law enforcement must not forget the characteristics of individuals with autism when responding to calls. For example, if they receive a call for assistance involving a stranger sitting on a porch swing or rocking chair or looking into the windows of a house, it may not indicate a person on drugs or a potential burglar, but rather an individual with autism who just wanted to self-stimulate through rhythmatic motion or to see what was inside the house. In another example, a complaint from a store owner of a person rearranging items or display objects may not be a shoplifter, but, instead, an autistic individual engaging in the obsessive-compulsive behavior of "ordering" those items in some sequence that other individuals may not notice. While responding officers always must consider their own safety, as well as that of others, in such circumstances, their presence may cause further inappropriate responses by an autistic individual. Persons with autism do not know the implications of their behavior--they do not understand the consequences of their actions, especially aggressive actions. An officer's approach may cause people with this condition to flee, sometimes failing to respond to an order to stop. Other autistic individuals may react by dropping to the floor or ground and rocking back and forth, averting eye contact with the officer. Officers should not interpret an autistic individual's failure to respond to orders or questions as a lack of cooperation or as a reason for increased force. Although autistic individuals are usually self-abusing, they may escalate into tantrum-like behavior (e.g., screaming, pushing, kicking, hitting) from fear, frustration, or confusion. They can not conceptualize meanness or acts of purposeful injury to others. They just want the circumstances to change but do not know how to implement that change. This presents an obvious dilemma to responding officers.