Autism 101 [2023]

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Course Author(s)

Sgt. Tim Sutton

Course Summary

The job of law enforcement is changing rapidly and we're regularly running across new situations. Years ago, law enforcement was a job of arresting criminals, dealing with criminal issues, and enforcing traffic laws. But as time has progressed, more and more social work has been included. This is work that is not necessarily law enforcement related. One of the issues we’ve had calls about is related to autism.

Autism is an invisible disability. Unless there are some underlying circumstances, most people with autism do not look any different from anybody else. But they will BEHAVE differently, and without education about autism, an officer can interpret this behavior as defiant, aggressive, drug-induced, or even dangerous. But when dealing with a person who has autism, it may not be any of these things.

As an officer, you are trained to respond to YOUR perceived behavior of a person. This training is designed to educate you so that you can recognize autism when you encounter it and respond appropriately when dealing with a person who has autism, before it is too late.

This course will train you to pick up on autistic behaviors when you interact with someone who may have autism and you have not been informed that they have autism. What you learn during this course will give you an idea of the BEHAVIORS to look for so that when you start to interact with somebody who has autism, you can handle the situation effectively and not worsen the situation. The goal of this training is to have peaceful encounters for positive outcomes. 

During this course you will learn:

  • Autism is sensory driven
  • No two people with autism are the same
  • Autism is a developmental disability, not a mental disorder
  • Autism affects social skills and communication skills
  • Autism behaviors, noncompliance, and self-injurious behavior
  • People with autism are often literal thinkers
  • Autism and fixations
  • Autism and criminal behavior
  • Autism and sex crimes

Course Syllabus

  • Module 1 - Autism 101

    • Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • Perception and Autism Challenges
    • Social Skills
    • Social Skills Continued
    • Communication and Other Behaviors
    • Other Behaviors Continued
    • Sensory Challenges
    • Assessment
  • Module 2 - Autism 101

    • Suggested Response to Persons with Autism
    • Wandering and Elopement
    • Other Calls for Service
    • Sex Offenses and Autism
    • Sensory Overstimulation and Family Impact
    • Summary
    • Assessment