Some previous research has indicated that people on the autism spectrum may be more likely to have interactions with police than the non-autistic population. This may be associated with some of the traits and behaviours of autism, which may also affect the nature of the interactions that autistic people have with police. In other countries, police have generally reported feeling confident and competent in interacting with autistic people, while autistic adults have predominantly reported low levels of satisfaction with their interactions with police. However, there is no information about the experiences of people on the autism spectrum when interacting with police in Australia.
What happens when adults and children on the autism spectrum interact with police? Do police in Australia recognise and understand what it is to be a person on the autism spectrum?
The aim of this exploratory research is to survey and interview autistic adults and parents/carers of children and adults on the spectrum who have interacted with police in the past five years in Australia in order to:
- Describe the nature of interactions between people on the autism spectrum and police in Australia, including how autistic adults and family members of individuals on the spectrum perceive these interactions;
- Explore whether any individual factors (age, respondent type, mental health, intellectual disability) or contextual factors (disclosure of autism, type of involvement with police) influence perceptions of interactions with police;
- Explore how autism-related characteristics may affect an autistic individual’s interactions with police.
Making a difference
Unlike in the USA and UK, in Australia there have been no efforts to date to provide autism-specific training programs for police in Australia. The findings from this research will help to identify professional development opportunities that could support more positive interactions between police and people on the spectrum in Australia.
Aspect research team
Vicki Gibbs, ARCAP (Lead researcher)
Kaaren Haas, ARCAP
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)