Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 428–438 | Cite as

What Do Criminal Justice Students Know About Autism? An Exploratory Study Among Future Professionals

  • Melanie Clark MogaveroEmail author


The social and communication impairments and other atypical behaviors among those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) make this subset of the population particularly vulnerable. These vulnerabilities also present a separate set of concerns when they have contact with the criminal justice system, typically as victims or witness of abuse, as offenders or suspicious persons, or lost or missing persons. Specific measures must be taken to improve communication and to avoid misinterpreting communication impairments and other atypical behaviors as an indication of a lack of cooperation, being under the influence of substances, or of guilt/lack of remorse. Without the benefit of having basic knowledge and understanding of autism, criminal justice system professionals will struggle with meeting the needs of those with ASD. The current study explored the level of autism knowledge and awareness of among a sample of 400 undergraduate criminal justice students and possible future criminal justice professionals. The results demonstrated that the sample of students had moderate knowledge of ASD, which did not appear to increase with time in program. Those with greater exposure to people with ASD had more knowledge and understanding than those who did not. Recommendations and implications are discussed.


Autism Spectrum disorder Asperger’s Police Criminal justice system 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


The author is submitting this manuscript for exclusive consideration as an article in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology and declares the manuscript or parts of the manuscript have not been published elsewhere.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeGeorgian Court UniversityLakewoodUSA

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