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Police train to recognize Autism spectrum behaviors

Someone on the Autism spectrum may run, fight or shut down out of fear during an encounter with police. If the officer is not educated about disabilities, it can be a recipe for disaster.

PHOENIX - If you've seen the video of a Buckeye police officer taking down a 14-year-old boy with autism, it's difficult to watch.

Unfamiliar with autistic behaviors, the officer in the video mistook the boy for being on drugs.

The incident did, however, spark a conversation about training law enforcement to better understand the behaviors of the special needs community.

There is now a growing movement to not only educate officers, but educate people in the special needs community, so the two groups can understand each other better.

"People with invisible disabilities like autism and intellectual disabilities confuse the police, because they look like everyone else, but they don't behave like everyone else," Emily Iland, an autism spectrum independent consultant, said.

"So the first thing the police are going to think is that someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or has mental illness, when in reality they have a developmental disability."

Iland travels across the country hosting educational workshops for police and people with autism spectrum disabilities.

She was in Phoenix for such an event this past Saturday.

Most people, and children know how to communicate with police. However, if your child is on the autism spectrum, they may run, fight or shut down out of fear. If the police officer in the encounter is not educated about disabilities, it can be a recipe for danger.

Through her video "Be Safe, the Movie", Iland teaches kids how to act.

"We want to teach them four positive skills: Stay where you are when you meet the police, stay calm, do what they tell you to, and disclose your disability to them," Iland said.

The Austism Society of Greater Phoenix has already hosted dozens of these events, and is already planning future events, including one in Scottsdale in the coming weeks. You can find more information on their website.

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