Law enforcement officers (LEOs) may use physical force unnecessarily or escalate problem behavior when attempting to gain the compliance of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Copenhaver & Tewksbury in American Journal of Criminal Justice 44:309–333, 2019). Although specialized training may remedy this problem, the relatively small literature on such training programs indicates the need for further research (Railey et al. in Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 2020). This study used simulations with actors to evaluate the outcomes of performance-based instruction on strategies to promote compliance when LEOs respond to calls involving individuals with ASD. Results for three LEOs and 24 police cadets demonstrated the efficacy of behavioral skills training (BST) for teaching LEOs how to interact more effectively with individuals with ASD. Results also suggested that hands-on training should supplement commonly used forms of didactic instruction.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alvero, A. M., & Austin, J. (2019). The effects of conducting behavioral observations on the behavior of the observer. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33, 457–468. https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.2004.37-457
Biscobing, D., & Thompson, M. (2017). Mom says autistic son's run-in with Buckeye officer was 'excruciating'. Abc 15 Arizona. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.abc15.com/news/local-news/investigations/mom-says-autistic-son-s-run-in-with-buckeye-officer-was-excruciating
Biscobing, D. (2018). Family of teen with autism files $5 million claim against buckeye police for park incident. Abc 15 Arizona. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from https://www.abc15.com/news/local-news/investigations/family-of-teen-with-autism-files-5-million-claim-against-buckeye-police-for-park-incident
Brock, M. A., Cannella-Malone, H. I., Seaman, R. L., Andzik, N. R., Schaefer, J. M., Page, E. J., Barczak, M. A., & Dueker, S. A. (2016). Findings across practitioner training studies in special education: A comprehensive review and meta-analysis. Exceptional Children, 84, 7–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/0014402917698008
Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. (2015). Crisis intervention refresher course. Retrieved February, 2015, from http://www.tcole.texas.gov/content/course-curriculum-materials-and-updates-0
Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. (2018). Crisis intervention training (cit) 40 hr instructor guide. Retrieved February, 2018, from http://www.tcole.texas.gov/content/course-curriculum-materials-and-updates-0
Copenhaver, A., & Tewksbury, R. (2019). Interactions between autistic individuals and law enforcement: A mixed-methods exploratory study. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 44, 309–333. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-018-9452-8
Crane, L., Maras, K. L., Hawken, T., Mulcahy, S., & Memon, A. (2016). Experiences of autism spectrum disorder and policing in england and wales: Surveying police and the autism community. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46, 2028–2041. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-016-2729-1
Gardner, L., & Campbell, J. M. (2020). Law enforcement officers’ preparation for calls involving autism: Prior experiences and response to training. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04485-5
Gardner, L., Campbell, J. M., & Westdal, J. (2018). Brief report: Descriptive analysis of law enforcement officers’ experiences with and knowledge of autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49, 1278–1283. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3794-4
Gibbs, V., & Haas, K. (2020). Interactions between the police and the autistic community in australia: Experiences and perspectives of autistic adults and parents/carers. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04510-7
Hecker, I. (2019). Houston police learn how to better interact with autistic citizens. Fox 26 Houston. Retrieved June 9, 2019, from https://www.fox26houston.com/news/houston-police-learn-how-to-better-interact-with-autistic-citizens
Hepworth, D. (2017). A critical review of current police training and policy for autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, 8, 212–222. https://doi.org/10.1108/jidob-06-2017-0011
Houston Police Department Mental Health Division. (2020). 2019 annual report. Retrieved from https://www.houstoncit.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Annual-Report_2019.pdf
Hudson, A. M. (1982). Training parents of developmentally handicapped children: A component analysis. Behavior Therapy, 13, 325–333. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0005-7894(82)80041-5
Kelly, E., & Hassett-Walker, C. (2016). The training of new jersey emergency service first responders in autism awareness. Police Practice and Research, 17, 543–554. https://doi.org/10.1080/15614263.2015.1121390
Kirkpatrick, M., Akers, J., & Rivera, G. (2019). Use of behavioral skills training with teachers: A systematic review. Journal of Behavioral Education, 28(3), 344–361. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10864-019-09322-z
Laan, J. M., Ingram, R. V., & Glidden, M. D. (2013). Law enforcement training on mental disorders and autism spectrum disorders in the southeastern united states. Journal of Global Intelligence & Policy, 6, 10.
Modell, S. J., & Mak, S. (2008). A preliminary assessment of police officers’ knowledge and perceptions of persons with disabilities. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 46, 183–189. https://doi.org/10.1352/2008.46:183-189
Osborn, E. H. (2008). What happened to “paul’s law”? Insights on advocating for better training and better outcomes in encounters between law enforcement and persons with autism spectrum disorders. University of Colorado Law Review, 79, 333.
Parsons, M. B., Rollyson, J. H., & Reid, D. H. (2012). Evidence-based staff training: A guide for practitioners. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 5, 2–11. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf03391819
Railey, K. S., Love, A. M., & Campbell, J. M. (2020). A systematic review of law enforcement training related to autism spectrum disorder. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088357620922152
Rava, J., Shattuck, P., Rast, J., & Roux, A. (2017). The prevalence and correlates of involvement in the criminal justice system among youth on the autism spectrum. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47, 340–346. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-016-2958-3
Salerno, A. C., & Schuller, R. A. (2019). A mixed-methods study of police experiences of adults with autism spectrum disorder in Canada. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 64, 18–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlp.2019.01.002
Teagardin, J., Dixon, D. R., Smith, M. N., & Granpeesheh, D. (2012). Randomized trial of law enforcement training on autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 1113–1118. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2012.02.002
Thomas, B. R. (2013). Effects of conducting peer behavioral observations on the observer’s correct use of discrete trial teaching procedures. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 2143–2148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2013.03.033
Tint, A., Palucka, A. M., Bradley, E., Weiss, J. A., & Lunsky, Y. (2017). Correlates of police involvement among adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47, 2639–2647. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3182-5
Toropin, K., & Waldrop, T. (2020). Police handcuff 16-year-old boy with autism while he was having seizures, mother says. CNN. Retrieved February 4, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/03/us/fresno-police-handcuff-autistic-boy/index.html
Ward-Horner, J., & Sturmey, P. (2012). Component analysis of behavior skills training in functional analysis. Behavioral Interventions, 27, 75–92. https://doi.org/10.1002/bin.1339
We would like to thank Erika Hinkle, Kodie Hinkle, Marisa Goodwin, Elizabeth Luna, Landon Cowan, Naomi Alphonso, Jenny Chen, Alexis Marcouex, Christian Silva, Justin Hunt, Allen Hill, Everette Penn, Rebecca Skillern, Travis Cogbill, Alfred “Rene” Rivera, Pamela Tyler, William Staney, Melissa Cummins, Shannon Hall, and Geronimo Trevino for their assistance with various aspects of the study.
All authors contributed equally to this manuscript.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Karlie A. Hinkle is now at Western Michigan University.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Hinkle, K.A., Lerman, D.C. Preparing Law Enforcement Officers to Engage Successfully with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Evaluation of a Performance-Based Approach. J Autism Dev Disord 53, 887–900 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-021-05192-5
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Behavioral skills training
- Law enforcement officers
- Performance-based training
- Police officers