Autism, Advocates, and Law Enforcement Professionals: Recognizing and Reducing Risk Situations for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder
by Dennis Debbaudt.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2002. 142 pages.
 Available in Canada from Irwin Publishing

Highly Recommended by Amar Arneja of Guelph

All parents want to provide their kids with safety and security. Parents of kids with Autism are no different. But the challenges we face are often very different from other families. These are the words of Dennis Debbaudt and he should know. Dennis is a licensed private investigator and is the owner of Debbaudt Detective Agency. He is also the father of 18 year old son who has Autism.

The book not only advises parents about how to prepare their children for the outside world but also provides information for Law Enforcement Professionals about how to recognize potentially unfortunate situations when a person with Autism could become a suspect just because he or she is not acting properly or not answering promptly. When asked by a policeman “where do you live?” the answer after a delay may be “in my home.” The proper question should be, “what is your home address?” But how does the policeman deal with the person who has Autism? Dennis Debbaudt has written articles for the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin and given information to law enforcement professionals and advocacy organizations in the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom.

Reading this book reminded me of how important it is to ask questions properly. I am the father of a 25 year old. This recent incident is an example of how difficult it is sometimes to get proper information.  We went to a nearby grocery store where the shopping carts are chained and you need a quarter to free the cart. After we finished shopping I asked my son to return the cart and get the quarter back. When he returned I asked him if he got his quarter back. Following is the sequence of conversation. My son’s answers are in italics.

Did you get the quarter back?
Why not?
A man took it.
A man took the quarter?
No, the man took the cart.
And he did not give you the quarter?
No, the man said he did not have a quarter.
Well that is strange.
You did not complain?
Well he gave me money.
I thought you said he did not give you a quarter?
No, he gave me two dimes and a nickel.

As you can see, it can be quite difficult to get proper information from persons with Autism. Recognition and response are key elements for the law enforcement professionals to understand the needs of the rising autistic population. Law enforcers need to recognize the signs of Autism in order to provide for the welfare and safety of all citizens. Individuals with developmental disorders are seven times more likely than other people to come into contact with police and their responses to encounters with the law may not be appropriate. How can the needs and responses of people with Autism be reconciled with the duties of the police to serve and protect the community? In this book Dennis Debbaudt provides essential information for both groups. I highly recommend this book specially for the police and mall security people although it is quite useful for the caregivers too.