Training Police to Interact with Autistic Individuals
Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with David Kearon, Director of Adult Services, Autism Speaks, to talk about the dangers of wandering for autistic children and adults, and the importance of training law enforcement on how to recognize and interact with autistic individuals.
"David Kearon is Director of Adult Services at Autism Speaks Good to have you. Yeah, thanks for having me Steve. Check out our website, by the way, folks. We've done a lot of programming... not enough, on autism. A whole range of issues. But the issue you're here to talk about is more specific. You just told me, before we got on the air, about half of all children with autism wander? Yeah. That's right. Based on the research, we know approximately half of people with autism will wander. It is more common in childhood. But for some of those folks, that behavior will continue into adulthood as well. Why is that a problem? Well, you know, people with autism in some cases have a kind of a lack of appreciation for danger, for their personal safety. And what we know is, unfortunately, 90% of deaths that occur as a result of wandering amongst children with autism, is due to drowning. So unfortunately, so many of these episodes end in tragedy. Do you work...? Does Autism Speaks work...? Do you work to try to stop them from wandering? We have tools to help try and prevent wandering. And we also have other tools that are designed to help first responders and families better respond to cases of wandering as well. Play out what often happens, which is not good, and what you're seeking to have happen. Yeah. I mean, in so many of these cases, to add a kind of extra tragic level, it's often, you know, home with mom and dad or with an older sibling, who just loses attention for maybe a minute or two, and that's enough time for a child to slip out the door. And by the time that caregiver realizes what's happened, that child could be anywhere. And what we see in so many cases are, you know, they may go to neighbors' homes. In most cases, they're drawn to bodies of water. Whether it's ponds, reservoirs in the neighborhood, neighbors' pools. Do we know why? We don't fully understand why. There's some theories as to, you know, some people with autism have what we call sensory seeking. So they're... you know, they're seeking out something sensory about water, whether it's visuals or the way it feels, but they're... you know, regardless of the reason, we know that's the number one danger in these situations, and that's why we try and coach families and first responders, search there first. So when you're training law enforcement professionals, what is the training, a, and b, what is the goal? So part of the training is certainly on those kinds of first steps..."