Tips for First Responders on Interacting with an Individual with Autism


People on the autism spectrum may:

  • not understand what you say
  • appear deaf
  • be unable to speak or speak with difficulty
  • engage in repetitive behaviors
  • act upset for no apparent reason
  • appear insensitive to pain
  • appear anxious or nervous
  • dart away from you unexpectedly
  • engage in self-stimulating behaviors (e.g. hand flapping or rocking)

This individual may not understand the law, know right from wrong, or know the consequences of his/her actions.

wallet-cardThe Autism Society’s Autism Awareness Wallet Card is a colorful two-sided card that provides “helpful hints” for interacting
with someone who has autism and includes special information for law enforcement or medical emergency personnel.

Helpful hints for interacting with someone who has autism:

  • Speak slowly and use simple language
  • Use concrete terms
  • Repeat simple questions
  • Allow time for responses
  • Give lots of praise
  • Do not attempt to physically block self-stimulating behavior
  • Remember that each individual with autism is unique and may act differently than others

The Autism Society offers a series of fact sheets and brochures to educate and support crime victim assistance professionals, individuals with autism, and their families and friends. There are pieces written specifically for law enforcement officers, paramedics, emergency room staff and more. Visit the Autism Society’s Free Downloads for PDFs and more information.

Paramedics and Emergency Room staff cvr
More information for paramedics and emergency room staff lwalawenforcement More information for law enforcement and other first responders