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Law enforcement and autism

Dr. Katherine Stavropoulos discusses why training is needed in Psychology Today.

Dr. Katherine Stavropoulos recently wrote a piece in Psychology Today where she addresses law enforcement and autism. In the article she says, "Although law enforcement is tasked with keeping the public safe, interactions between first responders and those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other psychiatric conditions can be contentious—and in some cases, deadly.

A 2012 study conducted by researchers at Drexel University measured how common it was for youth with ASD to be stopped and questioned by police or arrested. They found that by age 21, 20 percent of youth with ASD had been stopped by police, and almost 5 percent had been arrested.

Although the Drexel study focused on those in the U.S., similar findings have been reported from other countries. For example, a study from Swedish researchers found that people on the autism spectrum were at a 31 percent higher risk of having a criminal conviction compared to those without ASD. More broadly, in a study of all civilian deaths during interactions with law enforcement in 2015, researchers found that individuals with a mental illness were over 7 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement compared to those without."

Read the full article "Law Enforcement and Autism: Why Training is Needed" here.