The social and communication impairments and other atypical behaviors among those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) make this subset of the population particularly vulnerable. These vulnerabilities also present a separate set of concerns when they have contact with the criminal justice system, typically as victims or witness of abuse, as offenders or suspicious persons, or lost or missing persons. Specific measures must be taken to improve communication and to avoid misinterpreting communication impairments and other atypical behaviors as an indication of a lack of cooperation, being under the influence of substances, or of guilt/lack of remorse. Without the benefit of having basic knowledge and understanding of autism, criminal justice system professionals will struggle with meeting the needs of those with ASD. The current study explored the level of autism knowledge and awareness of among a sample of 400 undergraduate criminal justice students and possible future criminal justice professionals. The results demonstrated that the sample of students had moderate knowledge of ASD, which did not appear to increase with time in program. Those with greater exposure to people with ASD had more knowledge and understanding than those who did not. Recommendations and implications are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Due to the diagnostic changes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV, APA, 2000) to the DSV-5 (2013) that reclassified all Pervasive Developmental Disorders under one term, Autism Spectrum Disorder, the use of ASD in this paper includes Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
See Pervasive Developmental Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV, APA, 2000),
Rain Main (1988) see https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095953/awards?ref_=tt_awd
An analysis of the Stone’s original 1987 survey conducted by Campbell, Reichle, and Van Bourgondien (1996) revealed that it was unidimensional, had reasonable internal consistency (alpha = 0.66), stable
reliability, and showed initial reasonable validity.
New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Florida.
Dennis Debbaudt is a world-renowned author and ASD educator for law enforcement and emergency
responders. See https://www.debbaudtlegacy.com/
Allen D, Evans C, Hider A, Hawkins S, Peckett H, Morgan H (2008) Offending behaviour in adults with Asperger syndrome. J Autism Dev Disord 38:748–758
American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edn, (DSM 5). Washington, DC: APA
Anderson C, Law JK, Daniels A, Rice C, Mandell DS, Hagopian L, Law PA (2012) Occurrence and family impact of elopement in children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics 130:870–877
Attwood T, Henault I, Dubin N (2014) The autism Spectrum, sexuality, and the law. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London
Autism Society (2006) Results of the victims of crime with autism survey (unpublished)
Barnard-Brak L, Richman DM, Moreno R (2016) Predictors of elopement exhibited by school-aged children with special health care needs: towards the development of a screening instrument for elopement. J Prim Prev 37:543–554. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10935-016-0449-0
Barry-Walsh JB, Mullen PE (2004) Forensic aspects of Asperger’s syndrome. J Forensic Psychiatry Psychol 15(1):96–107
Bruck M, London K, Landa R, Goodman J (2007) Autobiographical memory and suggestibility in children with autism spectrum disorder. Dev Psychopathol 19:73–95. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0954579407070058
Carlile KA (2018) Teaching help-seeking when lost to individuals with autism spectrum disorder. J Appl Behav Anal 51(2):191–206
Cheely CA, Carpenter LA, Letourneau EJ, Nicholas JS, Charles J, King LB (2011) The prevalence of youth with autism spectrum disorders in the criminal justice system. J Autism Dev Disord 42:1856–1862. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-011-1427-2
Chown N (2009) Do you have any difficulties that I may not be aware of?’ A study of autism awareness and understanding in the UK police service. Int J Police Sci Manag 12(2):256–273. https://doi.org/10.1350/ijps.2010.12.2.174
Crane L, Maras KL, Hawken T, Mulcahy S, Memon A (2016) Experiences of autism spectrum disorder and policing in England and Wales: surveying police and the autism community. J Autism Dev Disord 46:2028–2041. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-016-2729-1
Curry K, Posluszny M, Kraska S (1993) Training criminal justice personnel to recognize offenders with disabilities. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services News In Print, Washington, DC
Debbaudt D (2002) Autism, advocates and law enforcement professionals. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London
Debbaudt D (2004) Beyond guilt or innocence. Forum paper, Autism New Zealand Inc., Worcester, MA. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from http://autismnz.org.nz/police/Pol_BeyGuilt.pdf
Debbaudt D, Rothman D (2001) Contact with individuals with autism. FBI Law Enforce Bull 70(4):20–24
Duan G, Chen J, Zhang W, Yu B, Jin Y, Wang Y, Yao M (2015) Physical maltreatment of children with autism in Henan province in China: a cross-sectional study. Child Abuse Negl 48:140–147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.03.018
Edelson G (2010) Sexual abuse of children with autism: factors that increase risk and interfere with recognition of abuse. Disability Studies Quarterly 30(1):189–200.http://dsqsds.org/article/view/1058/1228
Edworthy A, Hylton C (2010) Brain-injured children and the police. J Learn Disabil Offending Behav 1(3):40–48
Freckelton I (2013) Autism spectrum disorder: forensic issues and challenges for mental health professionals and courts. J Appl Res Intellect Disabil 26(5):420–434
Frith U (1991) Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Gammicchia C, Johnson C (n.d.) The Autism Society Autism information for advocates, attorneys, and judges. Retrieved September 8, 2018 from https://www.autism-society.org/wp-content/.../Advocates_Attorneys_and_Judges.pdf
Geluk C, Jansen L, Vermeiren R, Doreleijers T, van Domburgh L, de Bildt A, Twisk J, Hartman C (2012) Autistic symptoms in childhood arrestees: longitudinal association with delinquent behavior. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 53(2):60–167
Ghaziuddin M, Tsai L, Ghaziuddin N (1991) Brief report: Violence in Asperger syndrome, A critique. J Autism Dev Disord 21(3):349–354
Griffin-Shelley E (2010) An Asperger’s adolescent sex addict, sex offender: a case study. Sex Addict Compulsivity 17:46–64. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720161003646450
Gudjohnsson GH (1984) A new scale of interrogative suggestibility. Personal Individ Differ 5:53–58
Hacking I (2009) Humans, aliens, and autism. Daedalus 138(3):44–59
Hall-Lande J, Hewitt A, Mishra S, Piescher K, LaLiberte T (2015) Involvement of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the child protection system. Focus Autism Other Dev Disabl 30(4):237–248. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088357614539834
Hart-Kerkhoffs LA, Jansen LM, Doreleijers TA, Vermeiren R, Minderaa RB (2009) Autism Spectrum disorder symptoms in juvenile suspects of sex offenses. J Clin Psychiatry 70(2):266–272
Haskins BG, Silva JA (2006) Asperger’s disorder and criminal behavior: forensic-psychiatric considerations. J Am Aca Psychiatr Law 34:374–384
Henry LA, Crane L, Nash G, Hobson Z, Kirke-Smith M, Wilcock R (2017) Verbal, visual, and intermediary support for child witnesses with autism during investigative interview. J Autism Dev Disord 47:2348–2362. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3142-0
Hilton LJ (2017) Avonte's law: autism, aandering, and the racial surveillance of neurological difference. Afr Am Rev 50(2):221–235
Kohn Y, Tarek F, Ratzoni G, Apter A (1998) Aggression and sexual offence in Asperger’s syndrome. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci 35(4):293–299
Lang R, Rispoli M, Machalicek W, White PJ, Kang S, Pierce N, Mulloy A, Fragale T, O’Reilly M, Sigafoos J, Lancioni G (2009) Treatment of elopement in individuals with developmental disabilities: a systematic review. Res Dev Disabil 30:670–681
Lindblad F, Lainpelto K (2011) Sexual abuse allegations by children with neuropsychiatric disorders. J Child Sex Abuse 20:182–195. https://doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2011.554339
Lowe K, Allen D, Jones E, Brophy S, Moore K, James W (2007) Challenging behaviours: prevalence and topographies. J Intellect Disabil Res 51(8):625–636
Loynes F (2001) The Impact of Autism. Report prepared for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism. Published: Autism
Mandell DS, Walrath CM, Manteuffel B, Sgro G, Pinto-Martin JA (2005) The prevalence and correlates of abuse among children with autism served in comprehensive community-based mental health settings. Child Abuse Negl 29:1359–1372
Maras KL, Bowler DM (2010) The cognitive interview for eyewitnesses with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 40(11):1350–1360. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-010-0997-8
Maras KL, Mulcahy S, Memon A, Picariello F, Bowler DM (2014) Evaluating the effectiveness of the self-administered interview for witnesses with autism spectrum disorder. Appl Cogn Psychol 28(5):693–701. https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.3055
Mattison M, Dando CJ, Ormerod T (2015) Sketching to remember: episodic free recall task support for child witnesses and victims with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 45(6):1751–1765. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2335-z
Mattison M, Dando CJ, Ormerod T (2016) Drawing the answers: sketching to support free and probed recall by child witnesses and victims with autism spectrum disorder. Autism 22:181–194. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361316669088
Mayes TA (2003) Persons with autism and criminal justice: core concepts and leading cases. J Posit Behav Interv 5(2):92–100. https://doi.org/10.1177/10983007030050020401
McCrory E, Henry LA, Happ F (2007) Eyewitness memory and suggestibility in children with Asperger syndrome. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 48:482–489. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01715.x.
Modell SJ, Mak S (2008) A preliminary assessment of police officer knowledge and perceptions of persons with disabilities. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 46:183–189
Mogavero MC (2016) Autism, sexual offending, and the criminal justice system. J Intellect Disabil Offending Behav 7(1):116–126
Mouridsen SE (2012) Current status of research on autism spectrum disorders and offending. Res Autism Spectr Disord 6:79–86
Mouridsen SE, Brønnum-Hansen H, Rich B, Isager T (2008) Mortality and causes of death in autism spectrum disorders: an update. Autism 12(4):403–414
Murrie DC, Warren JI, Kristiansson M, Dietz PE (2002) Asperger’s syndrome in forensic settings. Int J Forensic Ment Health 1(1):59–70
North AS, Russell AJ, Gudjonsson GH (2007) High functioning autism spectrum disorders: an investigation of psychological vulnerabilities during interrogative interview. J Forensic Psychiatry Psychol 19(3):323–334
Perkins M, Wolkind S (1991) Asperger’s syndrome: who is being abused? Arch Dis Child 66(6):693–695
Ray F, Marks C, Bray-Garretson H (2004) Challenges to treating adolescents with Asperger's syndrome who are sexually abusive. Sex Addict Compulsivity 11:265–285. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720160490900614
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. J Autism Dev Disord 37(2):340–346. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-016-2958-3
Rice CE, Zablotsky B, Avila RM, Colpe LJ, Schieve LA, Pringle B, Blumberg SJ (2016) Reported wandering behavior among children with autism spectrum disorder and/or intellectual disability. J Pediatr 174:232–239. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.03.047
Scragg P, Shah A (1994) Prevalence of Asperger’s syndrome in a secure hospital. Br J Psychiatry 165:679–682
Siponmaa L, Kristiansson M, Jonson C, Nyden A, Gillberg C (2001) Juvenile and young adult mentally disordered offenders: the role of child neuropsychiatric disorders. J Am Aca Psychiatr Law 29(4):420–426
Solomon O, Lawlor MC (2013) And I look down and he is gone: narrating autism, elopement and wandering in Los Angeles. Soc Sci Med 94:106–114
Stone WL (1987) Cross-disciplinary perspectives on autism. J Pediatr Psychol 12(4):615–630
Stuart M, Swiezy N and Ashby I (2008) Autism Knowledge Survey: Trends in Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Poster presented at the 2nd annual ABA Autism Conference, February 9, Atlanta, GA
Swiezy NA (2007) Autism Knowledge Survey-Revised. Christian Sarkine Autism Treatment Center, HANDS in Autism, Indianapolis, IN
Swiezy NA (2013) Autism Knowledge Survey-Revised. Christian Sarkine Autism Treatment Center, HANDS in Autism, Indianapolis, IN
Swiezy NA, Fairbanks J, Stuart M, Ashby I, Ables EM and Stone W. (2005) Autism Knowledge Survey. Christian Sarkine Autism Treatment Center, HANDS in Autism
Taylor K, Mesibov G, Debbaudt D (2009) Autism in the criminal justice system. N Carolina Bar J 14(4):32–36
Tint A, Palucka AM, Bradley E, Weiss JA, Lunsky Y (2017) Correlates of police involvement among adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 47(9):2639–2647
Tipton LA, Blacher J (2014) Brief report: autism awareness: views from a campus community. J Autism Dev Disord 44:477–483
Turcotte P, Shea LL, Mandell D (2018) School discipline, hospitalization, and police contact overlap among individuals with autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 48(3):883–891. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3359-y
Woodbury-Smith MR, Clare ICH, Holland AJ, Kearns A (2006) High functioning autistic spectrum disorders, offending and other law-breaking: findings from a community sample. J Forensic Psychiatry Psychol 17(1):108–120
The author is submitting this manuscript for exclusive consideration as an article in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology and declares the manuscript or parts of the manuscript have not been published elsewhere.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Research Involving Human Participants
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Mogavero, M.C. What Do Criminal Justice Students Know About Autism? An Exploratory Study Among Future Professionals. J Police Crim Psych 34, 428–438 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-018-9302-0
- Autism Spectrum disorder
- Criminal justice system