From Steve Silberman in the New York Times: The Police Need to Understand Autism

As someone who has cared for individuals affected by developmental disabilities, my biggest fear has never been “What happens if my kid has a melt down?!” I am highly trained and comfortable handling that. My biggest fear has always been “What happens if my kid has a melt down in public and people don’t know he has a disability and assume the worst?”

As we have too often seen, sometimes police culture can involve reacting first, ask questions later. Now, while that has had devastating affects for multiple communities, we don’t really hear about when it happens to the special needs community. On top of that, more important than perhaps being informed about it, is how do we fix it? Can special training do it? More education?

As the number of people affected by developmental disability continues to grow, encounters with police will obviously grow as well. Now, Police have a ridiculously hard job. We ask them to run towards danger vs away from it. That carries inherently heightened senses of alarm. What can we do to help a police officer or other first responders to ID someone with Autism? Or better yet, as Steve puts it in his amazing op-ed, how do we teach them to understand?

I will write a commentary on this piece soon, but first, I want everyone to read this scary, prudent and necessary piece from one of the people at the forefront at helping everyone understand the complexities of neuro-diversity (His book is a must read!)

Any police officers who read this (and anyone else), I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts. Leave a comment or email me at

Here is the link to the article in the times. Be back soon!

The Police Need to Understand Autism 


2 thoughts on “From Steve Silberman in the New York Times: The Police Need to Understand Autism

  1. Thank you for sharing this Brett! As a parent of two children with autism this is such an important topic for me, especially because one of my children is non-verbal, engages in lots of stereotypy, self-injury and aggression and has eloped several times. We need to help first responders understand autism and also develop a relationship with them so that parents can feel comfortable contacting them in a crisis situation. I am actually in the process of trying coordinate a training workshop with our Local Police Department and Autism Giving Tree, here in Bluffton, SC. The goal of the training would be to teach autism awareness, sensitivity and response procedures in emergency situations as they relate to autism. Autism Giving Tree is dedicated to educating professionals, families and community members about autism.

    -Jaime Charles


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s