Three Steps to Avoiding Unintended and Tragic Events

The recent police-involved shooting in North Miami hits close to home for those of us who know, love, or support someone with autism.  As more details emerge about this unfortunate and tragic interaction, many are asking, “How can we prevent this from happening in our community?”

A first and critical step:  Enhancing autism awareness in public safety personnel.

Commonwealth Autism has been training law enforcement personnel and other first responders since 2003 in recognizing the signs of autism and teaching proactive strategies for interacting with people with autism. In collaboration with the Virginia Public Safety Workgroup for Autism and the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, training is available.

Although this training is not mandated for law enforcement in Virginia, through an on-going partnership with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, training is offered numerous times throughout the year. Training is provided utilizing a unique format – pairing a law enforcement officer with a subject matter expert.

Many law enforcement officers have also completed the Train-the-Instructor course, which allows agencies to train all personnel in their agency. Contact your local law enforcement agency to see if they have received autism awareness training.  If they haven’t, you can share resources found on our Public Safety page.

Arrange opportunities for people with autism to become more familiar with public safety personnel such as community safety events and field trips.

Share information with others.

  1. Take a completed 911 profile sheet to your local dispatcher and ask them to flag the information
  2. Visit the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Consider getting an identification card for the person with autism. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles allows a code to be added to driver licenses and identification cards alerting officers when someone has autism. Additionally, DMV offers autism awareness license plates and parking placards.
  3. Share information with your neighbors and community about how they can assist in an emergency.

For more resources and information, visit our Public Safety page or contact Didi Zaryczny, our Public Safety Training Coordinator, at


Mission Statement

Commonwealth Autism's mission is to build the capacity of the autism service provider network through partnership and collaboration.

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