National news and local crises have reported that first responders, including police officers, may not be prepared to understand how autism may present in a crisis or how to take the first steps to help. Dr. Lindsay Shea’s team at the Policy and Analytics Center (PAC) gathered statewide data in Pennsylvania and found that people with autism were interacting with police more often, increasing the importance of making sure police were prepared. A statewide survey of justice system professionals found they wanted additional resources and training to prevent unnecessarily expensive and traumatic experiences among people with autism, including hospitalization and jail time.
Consequently, the PAC under the Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training Collaborative (ASERT) and Philadelphia Autism Project are focused on identifying gaps, generating resources, and conducting trainings to prepare both people with autism and their families as well as police and other first responders for these interactions.
“The trainings conducted with Philadelphia police officers as well as justice, child welfare, firefighters, hospital personnel, and other first responders in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania paired with the resources for people with autism and their families help work toward being proactively prepared for these interactions, on both ends,” Dr. Shea says.
A number of the resources developed can be viewed at paautism.org/justice.