The F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies have developed guidelines for people with autism, families and police to address elopement behaviors. The topics are as follows:
- What Families Can Do To Lessen Police Interactions
- Information for Persons with Autism
- Information for Law Enforcement Officers
- Police Training Sessions
The guidelines are intended for people with autism, but have application to any person who exhibits elopement behaviors.
Among the common sense recommendations are to rehearse interactions with the police, carry an information card which automatically invokes right to counsel and to remain silent, and red flagging the 911 operator and local police and fire that a loved one has autism. Alerting neighbors as to the risk of elopement, and the fact that for some individuals there may be no sense of danger. Putting multiple locks on windows and doors are among the interventions suggested to families.
I have had numerous clients who have, as a spring ritual, handed out leaflets in the community with the child's picture and explaining how autism manifests itself for him. Other clients have turned their homes into a locksmith's paradise with multiple locks at differing heights reflecting the child's growth and dexterity over time.
One of the truly remarkable statistics referenced in this report is that"[p]ersons with autism and other developmental disabilities are estimated to have up to seven times more contacts with law enforcement agencies during their lifetimes (Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services News In Print, Winter, 1993)." In view of the likelihood of contact between law enforcement and persons with disabilities, these guidelines should be considered in developing IEP goals, BIPs and transition plan goals.
The level of candor of this report is refreshing. It openly states in the training section for police that "[a]utism issues remain un-addressed in standard police officer
training programs." Now if only school could be that forthright about things we could proceed to have a more constructive dialogue. Moreover, one area of inquiry should be to your local police, fire and paramedics as to their level of autism training and awareness.