The Justice System and Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are over-represented in the criminal and judicial system as a result of some of the characteristics of the disorder.
Individuals with an ASD have difficulty with understanding social skills and with communication: this means that they may be naive or gullible and may be asked by less scrupulous people, to carry out actions on their behalf that are not legal. Certain people do take advantage of this characteristic and get individuals with an ASD into trouble.
Other difficulties arise when individuals do not comprehend what is required in specific settings. For example, a teenager who struggles with a concept such as purchasing an item in a shop, may walk out of a shop without paying. Many individuals with severe difficulties will have a carer with them, but even so it can be difficult for the carer to ensure that this does not happen.
Once in trouble with the law, individuals have difficulty explaining their circumstances and can become more deeply entangled.
Those working in the legal and justice systems sometimes have good awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder and can assist their clients well. Others have a poor understanding. We encourage everyone in the emergency services to inform themselves about ASDs and ensure that they can accommodate the special needs of these individuals. We can provide a range of training options.