ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)
|Friday, July 14, 2006: 10:45 AM-12:00 PM
|#2335- Improving Crime Victim Assistance for Individuals with Autism
|The quality of life for individuals with autism has risen substantially over the last two decades, however, entrance into communities, increased independence, and the principles of self-determination (and the “dignity of risk”) have resulted in both children and adults with autism being increasingly vulnerable to crime at the community level. Through a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, this workshop will share information about a new curriculum and materials to educate crime victim-serving professionals about autism.
| - Past President-Howard County ASA. Asst. Director, Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration. 2005 Kennedy Foundation Fellow and worked on the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. Former Director of Public Policy Initiatives for the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council. Masters degree in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University and has a son with autism.
- Carolyn is mom to two teens who are both her pride and joy as well as her reason for being here. Nicholas fourteen has autism and Alexander fifteen is proof that a teen can age his parent ten years in just two. Carolyn has been married to Andrew for sixteen years and this year was presented with the "Parent Advocate" award f 2005 by the Association for Children's Mental Health for her assistance of many families in Michigan. Carolyn has also been active in ASA National for many years serving on local boards as well as several national committees.
With deinstitutionalization and a shift to community-based services, the quality of life for individuals with autism has risen substantially over the last two decades, however, entrance into communities, increased independence, and the principles of self-determination (and the "dignity of risk") have resulted in both children and adults with autism being increasingly vulnerable to crime at the community level. There is a great deal of research indicating that individuals with developmental disabilities experience crime (and particularly violent crimes) at rates higher than the nondisabled population. Research has shown that persons with developmental disabilities are approximately seven times more likely to come in contact with law enforcement than others persons (Curry, Posluszny, & Kraska, 1993), however to date there has been virtually no data collected on the victimization of individuals with autism. Efforts to educate first responders and victim assistance agencies have focused primarily on individuals with cognitive disabilities, and while many individuals with autism also have cognitive disabilities, inherent to autism may be additional communication, sensory processing, and behavioral differences. If individuals with autism are to meaningfully access and benefit from victim assistance services, personnel will require education and training.
In October 2005, the Howard County Chapter of the Autism Society of America together with its partners, the national office of the Autism Society of America (ASA), and L.E.A.N. (Law Enforcement Awareness Network) on Us, Inc., received a grant from the federal Office for Victims of Crime to develop and pilot a model, replicable Crime Victims with Autism Assistance, Education, and Training Program. This project will develop greater capacity among professionals that serve and support victims of crime to serve and support individuals with autism and other disabilities characterized by communication, behavioral, and sensory challenges.
The TASH Conference workshop will address the following learning objectives:
„X Participants will be familiar with available research and data on crime victimization and individuals with disabilities. „X Participants will understand the concept of "dignity of risk" and its importance within the broader framework of self-determination. „X Individuals will have an understanding of how the characteristics of autism may make individuals vulnerable to crime. „X Individuals will understand how the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act apply to professionals, organizations, and agencies that provide services to victims of crime. „X Participants will learn how ASA and its partners are working to develop training curriculum and materials to assist a wide range of professionals to help crime victims with autism.
Relationship to Best Practice Both the project and the TASH conference workshop will address the principles of self-determination and its inherent concept, the "dignity of risk" - the idea that with more independence, comes risk, and that individuals with disabilities should be allowed to make the same choices that individuals without disabilities are afforded. According to Robert Perske (1981), "In the past, we found clever ways to build avoidance of risk into the lives or persons living with disabilities. Now we must work equally hard to help find the proper amount of risk these people have the right to take. We have learned that there can be healthy development in risk taking... and there can be crippling indignity in safety."
Not surprisingly, as people with autism and other developmental disabilities develop more independence, there are more decisions, and more decisions that come with risk. Every activity, from being included in the neighborhood school, walking the community's trail system, riding community transportation alone, interacting with strangers and service providers, handling one's own money, to entering into sexual relationships, brings a certain degree of risk. While individuals, families and professionals take steps to reduce that risk, it cannot be eliminated. As individuals and communities it is important that we understand the interrelationship between taking risks and assuming responsibility for their consequences.
It is therefore a community responsibility to ensure that crime victim assistance services be accessible and responsive to individuals with autism in the same way as they are to individuals without disabilities. The concept of self-determination for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities links directly to the Standards for Victim Assistance Programs and Providers developed by the National Victim Assistance Standards Consortium (DeHart, 2003). Ethical standard 3.4 states, "The victim assistance provider respects the victim's right to self-determination." For individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, professionals' beliefs, past experiences, knowledge, and understanding of "competence" often play a significant role in how services are provided to them. The knowledge and capabilities of victim assistance professionals supporting crime victims with autism have a direct impact on how the criminal justice system serves these individuals with disabilities, resolves cases against those who commit crimes, and ultimately the safety of the community. Ethically and programmatically it is vital that individuals serving and supporting crime victims have a basic understanding of autism, know how to communicate with both verbal and nonverbal individuals, understand the communicative function of behavior, are sensitive to the effects of varying sensory stimuli, and are aware of the community resources available to assist them.