Presentation Title: People With Autism Spectrum Disorder As Often Unwitting Criminals

Abstract: The inclusion of many more people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in our communities has been accompanied by an increase in their involvement with the criminal justice system. Although the precise extent of involvement is difficult to determine because so many of the existing records do not include valid diagnostic information, there is a consensus that those with ASD more frequently encounter the criminal justice system than the typical population as both victims and perpetrators. In response to this development, psychologists are being asked to help in these matters. This presentation summarizes what is known regarding ASD and the criminal justice system and offers examples of risk factors associated with ASD and criminal behavior, crimes that have been committed, and the role psychologists can play in providing assistance.

This presentation will summarize the most frequent reasons why those with ASD are involved with the criminal justice system. For example, they are often viewed as suspects because of their unusual mannerisms and their strange responses to the chaos and unpredictability of crime scenes when they are in the vicinity of a crime. Also, they are less likely to understand the law as it relates to their behavior, such as in child pornography cases when they are observing child pornography on the Internet in the privacy of their rooms or when they are following an attractive girl whom they like to look at and their behavior is construed as unlawful stalking. Further, criminal interrogations can be extremely anxiety provoking for those with ASD, and they frequently incriminate themselves, even when they are not responsible for the crime under investigation. More exchanges among APA Divisions as proposed for this paper session can improve our understanding of these risks and empower us to serve our clients with ASD more effectively.


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