This study aimed to describe police interactions, satisfaction with police engagement, as well as examine correlates of police involvement among 284 adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) followed over a 12- to 18-month period. Approximately 16% of individuals were reported to have some form of police involvement during the study period. Aggressive behaviors were the primary concern necessitating police involvement. Individuals with police involvement were more likely to be older, have a history of aggression, live outside the family home, and have parents with higher rates of caregiver strain and financial difficulty at baseline. Most parents reported being satisfied to very satisfied with their children’s police encounters. Areas for future research are discussed in relation to prevention planning.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Allen, D., Evans, C., Hider, A., Hawkins, S., Peckett, H., & Morgan, H. (2008). Offending behaviour in adults with asperger syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(4), 748–758.
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th edn.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Anderson, C., Law, J. K., Daniels, A., Rice, C., Mandell, D. S., Hagopian, L., & Law, P. A. (2012). Occurrence and family impact of elopement in children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 130(5), 870–877.
Bjørkly, S. (2009). Risk and dynamics of violence in Asperger’s syndrome: A systematic review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14(5), 306–312.
Brown-Lavoie, S.M., Viecili, M.A., & Weiss, J.A. (2014). Sexual knowledge and victimization in adults with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(9), 2185–2196.
Bureau of Justice Statistics (2014). Crimes against persons with disabilities, 2009–2012 statistical tables. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
Cashin, A., & Newman, C. (2009). Autism in the criminal justice detention system: A review of the literature. Journal of Forensic Nursing, 5(2), 70–75.
Clifford, K. (2010). The thin blue line of mental health in Australia. Police Practice and Research, 11(4), 355–370.
Compton, M. T., Bahora, M., Watson, A. C., & Oliva, J. R. (2008). A comprehensive review of extant research on crisis intervention team (CIT) programs. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 36(1), 47–55.
Cotton, D., & Coleman, T. G. (2010). Canadian police agencies and their interactions with persons with a mental illness: A systems approach. Police Practice and Research, 11(4), 301–314.
Crane, L., Maras, K. L., Hawken, T., Mulcahy, S., & Memon, A. (2016). Experiences of autism spectrum disorder and policing in England and Wales: Surveying police and the autism community. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(6), 2028–2041.
Croen, L. A., Zerbo, O., Qian, Y., Massolo, M. L., Rich, S., Sidney, S., & Kripke, C. (2015). The health status of adults on the autism spectrum. Autism, 19(7), 814–823.
Crutchfield, R. D., Skinner, M. L., Haggarty, K. P., McGlynn, A., & Catalano, R. F. (2012). Racial disparity in police contacts. Race and Justice, 2, 179–202.
de Tribolet-Hardy, F., Kesic, D., & Thomas, S. D. M. (2015). Police management of mental health crisis situations in the community: Status quo, current gaps and future directions. Policing and Society, 25(3), 294–307.
Debbaudt, D. (2006). Disclosing to the Authorities. In Dinah Murray (Ed.), Coming out Asperger: Diagnosis, disclosure and self-confidence. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Durose, M., Smith, E., & Langan, P. (2007). Contact between police and the public 2005. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Edelson, M. G. (2010). Sexual abuse of children with autism: Factors that increase risk and interfere with recognition of abuse. Disability Studies Quarterly, 30(1), 1–17.
Fitzgerald, R. T., & Carrington, P. J. (2011). Disproportionate minority contact in Canada: Police and visible minority youth 1. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 53(4), 449–486.
Franz, S., & Borum, R. (2011). Crisis intervention teams may prevent arrests of people with mental illnesses. Police Practice and Research, 12(3), 265–272.
Freckelton, I., & List, D. (2009). Asperger’s disorder, criminal responsibility and criminal culpability. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 16(1), 16–40.
Fry, A. J., O’riordan, D. P., & Geanellos, R. (2002). Social control agents or front-line carers for people with mental health problems: Police and mental health services in Sydney, Australia. Health and Social Care in the Community, 10(4), 277–286. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2524.2002.00371.x.
Garland, A. F., Lau, A. S., Yeh, M., McCabe, K. M., Hough, R. L., & Landsverk, J. A. (2005). Racial and ethnic differences in utilization of mental health services among high-risk youths. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(7), 1336–1343.
Greenberg, M. T., & Lippold, M. A. (2013). Promoting healthy outcomes among youth with multiple risks: Innovative approaches. Annual Review of Public Health, 34, 253–270.
Gurney, J. G., McPheeters, M. L., & Davis, M. M. (2006). Parental report of health conditions and health care use among children with and without autism: National Survey of Children’s Health. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 160(8), 825–830.
Hall, A. V., Godwin, M., Wright, H. H., & Abramson, R. K. (2007). Criminal justice issues and autistic disorder. Growing up with Autism, 272–292.
Hartley, S. L., Barker, E. T., Baker, J. K., Seltzer, M. M., & Greenberg, J. S. (2012). Marital satisfaction and life circumstances of grown children with autism across 7 years. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(5), 688.
Heeramun, R., Magnusson, C., Gumpert, C. H., Granath, S., Lundberg, M., Dalman, C., & Rai, D. (2017). Autism and convictions for violent crimes: Population-based cohort study in Sweden. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2017.03.011.
Helverschou, S. B., Rasmussen, K., Steindal, K., Søndanaa, E., Nilsson, B., & Nøttestad, J. A. (2015). Offending profiles of individuals with autism spectrum disorder: A study of all individuals with autism spectrum disorder examined by the forensic psychiatric service in Norway between 2000 and 2010. Autism, 19(7), 850–858.
Helverschou, S. B., Steindal, K., Nøttestad, J. A., & Howlin, P. (2017). Personal experiences of the criminal justice system by individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Autism. doi:10.1177/13623613166855544.
Hodgetts, S., Nicholas, D., & Zwaigenbaum, L. (2013). Home sweet home? Families’ experiences with aggression in children with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities, 28(3), 166–174.
Howlin, P., & Karpf, J. (2004). Using the social communication questionnaire to identify “autism spectrum” disorders associated with other genetic conditions: Findings from a study of individuals with Cohen syndrome. Autism, 8(2), 175–182.
Jones, S. C., & Harwood, V. (2009). Representations of autism in Australian print media. Disability & Society, 24(1), 5–18.
Kalb, L. G., Stuart, E. A., Freedman, B., Zablotsky, B., & Vasa, R. (2012). Psychiatric-related emergency department visits among children with an autism spectrum disorder. Pediatric Emergency Care, 28(12), 1269–1276.
Kanne, S. M., & Mazurek, M. O. (2011). Aggression in children and adolescents with ASD: Prevalence and risk factors. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(7), 926–937.
Kawakami, C., Ohnishi, M., Sugiyama, T., Someki, F., Nakamura, K., & Tsujii, M. (2012). The risk factors for criminal behaviour in high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASDs): A comparison of childhood adversities between individuals with HFASDs who exhibit criminal behaviour and those with HFASD and no criminal histories. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(2), 949–957.
King, C., & Murphy, G. H. (2014). A systematic review of people with autism spectrum disorder and the criminal justice system. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(11), 2717–2733.
Lamb, H. R., Weinberger, L. E., & DeCuir, W. J. Jr. (2002). The police and mental health. Psychiatric Services, 53(10), 1266–1271.
Lawton, M. P., Moss, M., Hoffman, C., et al. (2000). Two transitions in daughters’ caregiving careers. The Gerontologist, 40(4), 437–448.
Lecavalier, L. (2006). Behavioral and emotional problems in young people with pervasive developmental disorders: Relative prevalence, effects of subject characteristics, and empirical classification. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 1101–1114.
Levy, S. E., Giarelli, E., Lee, L. C., Schieve, L. A., Kirby, R. S., Cunniff, C., & Rice, C. E. (2010). Autism spectrum disorder and co-occurring developmental, psychiatric, and medical conditions among children in multiple populations of the United States. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 31(4), 267–275.
Livingston, J. D. (2016). Contact between police and people with mental disorders: A review of rates. Psychiatric Services, 67(8), 850–857.
Lunsky, Y., Paquette-Smith, M., Weiss, J. A., & Lee, J. (2015). Predictors of emergency service use in adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder living with family. Emergency Medicine Journal, 32(10), 787–792.
Mandell, D. S. (2008). Psychiatric hospitalization among children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38(6), 1059–1065.
Matson, J. L., & Rivet, T. T. (2008). Characteristics of challenging behaviours in adults with autistic disorder, PDD-NOS, and intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 33(4), 323–329.
Mayes, T. A. (2003). Persons with autism and criminal justice core concepts and leading cases. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 5(2), 92–100.
Mazurek, M. O., Kanne, S. M., & Wodka, E. L. (2013). Physical aggression in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7(3), 455–465.
McAra, L., & McVie, S. (2005). The usual suspects? Street-life, young offenders, and the police. Criminal Justice, 5, 5–35.
Miller, K. (2008). Police stops, pretext, and racial profiling: Explaining warning and ticket stops using citizen self reports. Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, 6, 123–149.
Molteni, S., Carbon, M., Lops, J., Soto, E. C., Cervesi, C., Sheridan, E. M., & Foley, C. (2016). Correlates of subjective caregiver strain in caregivers of youth evaluated in a pediatric psychiatric emergency room. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. doi:10.1089/cap.2015.0028.
Montes, G., & Halterman, J. S. (2007). Psychological functioning and coping among mothers of children with autism: A population-based study. Pediatrics, 119(5), e1040–e1046.
Mouridsen, S. E. (2012). Current status of research on autism spectrum disorders and offending. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(1), 79–86.
Naglieri, J. A., & Chambers, K. M. (2009). Psychometric issues and current scales for assessing autism spectrum disorders. In S. Goldstein, J. A. Naglieri & S. Ozonoff (Eds.), Assessment of autism spectrum disorders (pp. 5–90). New York: Guilford.
Patch, P., & Arrigo, B. (1999). Police officer attitudes and use of discretion in situations involving the mentally ill: The need to narrow the focus. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 22(1), 23–35.
Perneger, T. V. (1998). What’s wrong with Bonferroni adjustments. BMJ, 316(7139), 1236–1238.
Pruchno, R. A., & McMullen, W. F. (2004). Patterns of service utilization by adults with a developmental disability: Type of service makes a difference. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 109(5), 362–378.
Rava, J., Shattuck, P., Rast, J., & Roux, A. (2017). The prevalence and correlates of involvement in the criminal justice system among youth on the autism spectrum. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(2), 340–346.
Robinson, S., Weiss, J. A., Lunsky, Y., & Ouellette-Kuntz, H. (2016). Informal support and burden among parents of adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 29(4), 356–365.
Rosenfeld, R., Rojek, J., & Decker, S. (2012). Age matters: Race differences in police searches of young and older male drivers. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 49(1), 31–55.
Rutter, M., Bailey, A., & Lord, C. (2003). The social communication questionnaire: Manual. Torrance: Western Psychological Services.
Ryan, J. P., & Yang, H. (2005). Family contact and recidivism: A longitudinal study of adjudicated delinquents in residential care. Social Work Research, 29(1), 31–39.
Salseda, L. M., Dixon, D. R., Fass, T., Miora, D., & Leark, R. A. (2011). An evaluation of Miranda rights and interrogation in autism spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 5(1), 79–85.
Schieve, L. A., Gonzalez, V., Boulet, S. L., et al. (2012). Concurrent medical conditions and health care use and needs among children with learning and behavioral developmental disabilities, national health interview survey, 2006–2010. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33(2), 467–476.
Sevlever, M., Roth, M. E., & Gillis, J. M. (2013). Sexual abuse and offending in autism spectrum disorders. Sexuality and Disability, 31(2), 189–200.
Shattuck, P., Wagner, M., Narendorf, S., Sterzing, P., & Hensley, M. (2011). Post-high school service use among young adults with an autism spectrum disorder. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 165(2), 141–146.
Short, T. B., MacDonald, C., Luebbers, S., Ogloff, J. R., & Thomas, S. D. (2014). The nature of police involvement in mental health transfers. Police Practice and Research, 15(4), 336–348.
Statistics Canada (2006). Census forward sortation area. Ottawa, ON: Geography Division.
Steffensmeier, D., & Allan, E. (1996). Gender and crime: Toward a gendered theory of female offending. Annual Review of Sociology, 22(1), 459–487.
Sterzing, P. R., Shattuck, P. T., Narendorf, S. C., Wagner, M., & Cooper, B. P. (2012). Bullying involvement and autism spectrum disorders: Prevalence and correlates of bullying involvement among adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 166(11), 1058–1064.
Theriot, M. T., & Segal, S. P. (2005). Involvement with the criminal justice system among new clients at outpatient mental health agencies. Psychiatric Services, 56(2), 179–185.
Turcotte, P., Mathew, M., Shea, L. L., Brusilovskiy, E., & Nonnemacher, S. L. (2016). Service needs across the lifespan for individuals with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(7), 2480–2489.
Vermeiren, R., Jespers, I., & Moffitt, T. (2006). Mental health problems in juvenile justice populations. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 15(2), 333–351.
White, S. E., McMorris, C., Weiss, J. A., et al. (2012). The experience of crisis in families of individuals with autism spectrum disorder across the lifespan. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21(3), 457–465.
Williams, K., Rivera, L., Neighbours, R., & Reznik, V. (2007). Youth violence prevention comes of age: Research, training and future directions. Annual Review of Public Health, 28, 195–211.
Witwer, A. N., & Lecavalier, L. (2007). Autism screening tools: An evaluation of the social communication questionnaire and the developmental behaviour checklist-autism screening algorithm. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 32(3), 179–187.
Woodbury-Smith, M., & Dein, K. (2014). Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and unlawful behaviour: Where do we go from here? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(11), 2734–2741.
Woodbury-Smith, M. R., Clare, I. C., Holland, A. J., Kearns, A., Staufenberg, E., & Watson, P. (2005). A case-control study of offenders with high functioning autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 16(4), 747–763.
Zablotsky, B., Anderson, C., & Law, P. (2013). The association between child autism symptomatology, maternal quality of life, and risk for depression. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(8), 1946–1955.
This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [MOP 102677]. Dr. Weiss is supported by the Chair in ASD Treatment and Care Research (Canadian Institutes of Health Research #284208 in partnership with NeuroDevNet, Sinneave Family Foundation, CASDA, Autism Speaks Canada, and Health Canada). The authors would like to thank all of the families for their time and participation.
YL, JAW, AMP and EB were the primary creators of the concept and design of this study. The analytic approach was created by YL and AT. AT and YL were responsible for creating the first draft and integrating all co-author input. All co-authors contributed substantively to the interpretation of the results and to draft revisions, and have approved the final version of the manuscript.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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 was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Tint, A., Palucka, A.M., Bradley, E. et al. Correlates of Police Involvement Among Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 47, 2639–2647 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3182-5
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Criminal justice system