Where Autism Advocates and Criminal Justice Advocates Can Agree

As both an advocate for those on the autism spectrum as well as for criminal justice reform, I’ve seen competing interests get in the way. I believe advocates from both groups want the same thing but political correctness and optics sometimes hinder broader goals from being accomplished.

Let’s start with where both sides agree: Neurodiversity advocates and criminal justice reformers both believe autistic people deserve fairness in their interactions with law enforcement. No one from either group would argue that the police are receiving the necessary de-escalation training they need. Steve Silberman’s recent New York Times Op-Ed https

://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/opinion/police-autism-understanding.html?_r= 0 eloquently describes the problem as it exists today. As Silberman suggests, a double rainbow of sorts exists for individuals of color and those on the autism spectrum. Behavior that is not easily understood by untrained law enforcement combined with institutionalized prejudices associated with race can be a lethal combination for minority individuals with disabilities.

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The Police Need to Understand Autism

A 14-year-old Arizona boy’s terrifying experience underscores that officers should be trained on how to recognize people on the spectrum.



Today with so much news about actions of police officers it is important for education on people that have some kind of mental illness. My anxiety issues get ramped up going through the TSA lines due to the fact I have a routine in how I pack and dress to comply with the rules. When my routine is questioned I can become very anxious when the officer has control over my life for a few minutes. This has happened when pulled over by the police at times as well. I have a card that I printed off the Asperger Autism network that I carry behind my driver’s license. I can give this card to an officer. For example, it points I may panic if yelled at, and lash out if touched or physically restrained. I would like to cooperate. To help me do so, please speak to me in normal, calm, non-confrontational tones. The card lists 12 items the officer can use to better when working with people with autism. I know that community policing is big on getting to know the people and the organizations that work with folks on the spectrum.