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Virtual Training Program Helps Improve Communication Between Police and People With Autism

Interactions between police officers and individuals with autism can often be fraught with danger, due to the communication difficulties experienced by many people on the autism spectrum. As such, special training is required to help officers recognize and understand signs of autism. VirTra, an Arizona-based organization offering virtual use-of-force training simulators for police officers, is introducing a new program to bridge the communication gap between police and those with autism. “Whether they know it or not, law enforcement have been and will be interacting with people that are on the spectrum in a fairly frequent manner” Lon Bartel, VirTra’s director of training and curriculum, was quoted as saying in a report by Police One.com. “We want to make sure to give them skill sets so that the officers can do their best and provide the level of care and service to who led the effort to develop the new course over the past two years.” Bartel was strongly involved in developing the course over the past two years.


According to the report, VirTra recognized the need for an autism training program after problematic police encounters with individuals with autism, including one in Arizona, in which an officer mistook a teenage boy engaged in “stimming” (self-stimulating behavior) for a drug dealer, escalating the situation. “If we can get officers to understand and recognize people that are on the spectrum and then what those special requirements are, we can end up creating better outcomes in the future,” Bartel said. The course educates officers about examples of stimming, a coping mechanism used by many individuals with autism, which can include hand flapping and rocking back and forth. The new autism program is part of VirTra’s Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy (V-VICTA), which is available to all VirTra customers. The curriculum’s digital video learning portion offers examples of key behaviors. These lessons are then reinforced through the simulator scenarios, which help officers apply what they’ve learned. “This is an absolutely critical component that needs to get out in the law enforcement community,” Bartel said. “We’re really excited about this particular section and being able to make an impact within law enforcement and the autism community.” Source: https://www.policeone.com/police-products/training/simulator/articles/how-a-new-simulation-course-helps-officers-train-to-recognize-the-signs-of-autism-FQtplYiAsym1lske/

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