Top 5 autism tips for professionals: Police

In this article Dr Mitzi Waltz gives her Top 5 tips for law enforcement officers or security personnel. These top tips offer advice to professionals on how to provide an equal, efficient and safe service. If you know or think that someone may have autism, these tips could help you maintain safety and be more effective.

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Top 5 tips

Law enforcement and security personnel

1. Use simple, exact language, avoiding sayings, metaphors and leading questions and give the person extra time to respond.

2. Don’t expect eye contact or typical body language.

3. Avoid touching or grabbing the person if possible.

4. If the person is unable to communicate, try using written words, gestures or simple pictures.

5. Make sure an Appropriate Adult is present when detaining or questioning.

These top 5 tips are meant only as a very general guide to what to think about. You can find further information on this subject below.

Additional resources

National Autistic Society (2012) Criminal justice

Prison Reform Trust (2011) Response to ‘Autism: Recognition, referral, diagnosis and management of adults on the autism spectrum; NICE guideline; draft for consultation, December 2011

BILD Easy Read information about keeping safe 

This set of pamphlets and other documents from around the UK has been collected by the British Institute for Learning Difficulties (BILD). They are all written in simple language, most with helpful pictures, and cover topics ranging from fire safety to sexual abuse and mate crime—excellent for working directly with people who have autism and a learning difficulty. 

The NAS and some regional autism groups have "autism alert" cards that people with autism may carry. However many people with autism will not have one.

Useful websites

The Ann Craft Trust works to protect disabled children and people with learning disabilities from abuse.

National Appropriate Adult Network trains and provides Appropriate Adults to support vulnerable people who are in custody or being questioned.

Author: Dr Mitzi Waltz

Date added: 3rd July 2015