“It made me feel sad.” That’s what Connor Leible, a 14-year-old boy with autism said about a confrontation with a police officer who mistook his mannerisms for signs of drug use. What Connor was doing was a form of self-stimulation called “stimming.” It’s a practice that many autistic individuals do to calm themselves.
While autism is something that more and more people are aware of, there’s still a lot of misinformation, and unless a person is familiar with it through family or friends, it’s very likely they would make the same mistake that the officer did with Connor. That’s why it’s important that police need to be trained on the behaviors of autistic individuals.
If you are unaware of the characteristics of autism it can be difficult to discern and is often referred to as “The Invisible Disability.”
Autism is a wide spectrum disorder. That means symptoms will vary from one person to another. One person might have severe sensory issues; another might struggle with social interaction. Some related symptoms are:
- Not responding to their name
- Lack of interest in things of interest
- Avoiding eye contact
- Wanting to be alone
- Repeating words or phrases over and over
- Getting upset by minor changes
- Having obsessive interests
- Flapping their hands, rocking their body, or spinning in circles
These are just a few of a long list of symptoms that might be displayed by someone who is autistic, and shows why law enforcement training is necessary in preventing misunderstandings, as well as promoting positive interactions between officers and autistic individuals.
To learn more about this and related topics, visit the Behavioral Health section of our blog.
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