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Friday, November 11, 2011

Autism, Police, and Crime

The Glendale News-Press reports on Don Short and Tamara Mark, who once had to restrain their nonverbal 10-year-old at an airport because he was acting up and was prone to self-injurious behavior. Someone called the police, who told Short to let go. Only after the child bit an officer on the knee did the police learn that he was autistic.
Short and his wife were one of four speakers who participated in the Autism Speaks’ training program aimed at providing police with a better understanding of people with autism and how to deal with them.

The organization’s Los Angeles Chapter, which funds research for autism and resources for parents, held four sessions at the Police Department for officers.

Nearly all of a group of about 20 officers who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they had responded to a call involving an autistic person.

Police are most often called to deal with a person with autism in escape and runaways incidents, said Kate Movius, project manager at Autism Speaks for the Autism Safety Program.

Law enforcement, she said, are seven times more likely to run into a person with autism than anyone else.

Movius advised officers responding to calls with an autistic person to speak slowly and assume a non-threatening stance. She also warned officers to be prepared for resistance because people with autism are often sensitive to touching.
People with autism can be crime victims, as this story from the Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, TN) illustrates:
Three rape charges were filed against a Clarksville man accused of having sexual relations with a 14-year-old autistic girl after he picked her up outside a Rutherford County high school Oct. 28, according to a sheriff's office news release.

Suspect William Gilbert Barnett Jr., 36, was charged also with three counts of aggravated sexual battery by Detective Lisa McCallum, the release reads.

Detective Sgt. Mickey McCullough said Barnett picked up the girl when she got off the school bus about 8 a.m. the morning of Oct. 28, allegedly raped her in his truck and returned her about 4 p.m. to her bus stop after school.

The girl's form of autism "makes her gullible, naïve, innocent and willing to please others," McCullough said.