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New course available to Canadian police on how to communicate with persons with autism

Sandy Sweet
Sandy Sweet - Contributed

A new resource is available to help police officers recognize and understand the challenges individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may experience in emergency situations.

The Canadian Police Knowledge Network (CPKN) partnered with the Toronto Police Service to develop and distribute the free online course to all frontline Canadian police.

The course will also help officers familiarize themselves with strategies for more effective communication during interactions with autistic individuals.

Toronto police had approached CPKN with the idea of developing the course in collaboration with community groups and public safety organizations in order to provide the most accurate resource possible.

“CPKN strives to create and offer more and better training for police through collaboration, standards, and technology. The opportunity to develop impactful training for frontline officers on a topic of national importance is a part of that work,” said CPKN president Sandy Sweet.

The collaborative effort also included subject matter expertise from Pacific Autism Family Network and Autism Speaks Canada.

Autism is the most commonly diagnosed neurological disorder in Canada, with one in 66 children being diagnosed with ASD.

Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, founder of the Pacific Autism Family Network, said Individuals with ASD are seven times more likely to come in contact with police and three times more likely for those calls to wind up in an emergency.

“The reason we are happy to be a part of this project is a lot of times these calls are misunderstood,” says Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, Founder, Pacific Autism Family Network.
“Information and awareness and training are absolutely crucial.”

Esther Rhee, of Autism Speaks Canada, said the group was pleased to be included in the training and applauded CPKN and Toronto police for the collaborative approach.

“This initiative focused on enhancing the capacity for frontline officers to support optimal outcomes when interacting with individuals with ASD and their families.

The course is about one hour in length and is available through the CPKN’s course catalogue.

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