Autism and the Police. A combination that might make people feel nervous. In fact, people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are at greater risk for a police encounter, but less prepared to interact safely with police. There are two parts to the safety solution, training law enforcement about autism, and helping our youth and adults with ASD understand how to interact safely with the police.

The Autism Society Los Angeles is proud to celebrate ten years of partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department, bringing awareness and training to nearly 5,000 LAPD officers. In 2006 we answered the call to help officers recognize and respond to people with ASD. Our work continues today with monthly trainings as part of LAPD’s intensive Mental Health Intervention Training. We also just helped train the entire Burbank Police Department with the Experience Autism™ program!

But that’s not all. We’ve also been promoting positive relationships between officers and the autism community. We partnered with LAPD to create the ground-breaking Mission Possible program, bringing students with ASD together with police to get to know and learn from one another. We continue to actively train our young people to interact safely with the police through BE SAFE Interactive Movie Screenings.

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October, 2014 Officer Vicky Stoeklein of the LAPD gets to know a student from the Los Angeles Unified School District at Mission Possible, 2014. Photo credit Christeanna McDonald. Mission Possible October, 2012: A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy got to know Joseph, a young man with ASD and limited verbal skills. The deputies and officers at Mission Possible described the event as “transformative.” Photo credit Milagros Lizzarga.

Please read on to learn more about all of these programs. Do you like what you see? We hope you will want to contribute to the Autism Society Los Angeles to help us continue and expand this important work!

Mission Possible: Bringing Police and the Autism Community Together

ASLA is a proud partner of Mission Possible, the award-winning safety training we created with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Mission Possible is ground-breaking because it not only trains the police about autism, it also brings officers together with youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder, bridging the gap so they can get to know and learn from one another.

Four Mission Possible events were funded by the Motorola Solutions Foundation and other partners in 2012-2014, benefitting more than 1200 participants. Programs like this are essential to help officers recognize and respond to individuals on the autism spectrum and to help youth and adults with autism learn to be safe in the community.

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October, 2013. Students with ASD meet Los Angeles Police Department officers at Mission Possible 2013 at Mission College in Sylmar CA. October, 2014. A young lady learns about tools used by the police at Mission Possible at The California Endowment in Los Angeles. Photo credit Andy Holzman, Los Angeles Daily News.

First, law enforcement professionals participated in hands-on experiences to gain insight into Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Simulation activities helped them understand what it is like to have different features of the condition, such as communication difficulties and sensory issues. Direct connections were made to help officers apply this perspective and understanding to their work.

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An LAPD officer learns about information processing difficulties in autism in the Write On simulation. Officers learn about fine and gross motor difficulties people with ASD can have, and how this can affect an encounter with police.

Next, each officer was paired up with a teen or adult with ASD from a local school. The pairs had the chance to spend quality time together. Then they participated in fun activities to help the young people learn safety skills, like following instructions and asking for help. Youth learned about tools of the police, and what to do in an emergency. These engaging experiences helped everyone involved enhance mutual understanding, communication and safety skills. Parents, teachers and staff who attended also got to know officers and learned about safety issues.

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Students and officers have fun while practicing following instructions from police at Mission Possible, October 2014 Photo credit Andy Holzman, Los Angeles Daily News. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies also participated in Mission Possible. This student tries out the fingerprinting process for the sensory experience and to know the steps in the procedure. Photo credit Christeanna McDonald for BE SAFE the Movie.

Mission Possible was awarded the Autism Society of America Autism Understanding Award in 2013. Many police departments and other organizations ask how they can replicate Mission Possible. Mission Possible content creator Emily Iland, M.A. has developed two training programs to accomplish that mission!

  • Experience Autism™ offers hands-on simulation activities that can help prepare law enforcement professionals and other first responders for real-life contact with individuals with ASD. Experience Autism™ includes simulations used in Mission Possible.
  • A BE SAFE Interactive Movie Screening is a community event in that brings together local police and the ASD/disability community. They get to know one another and develop mutual understanding. The audience views scenes from the safety film BE SAFE The Movie. After the video modeling, police and audience members do fun activities that help youth learn to interact safely with officers.

These trainings can be booked together to replicate Mission Possible, or individually. Youth learn about the police partner and his or her job. Officers get “eyes-on” training to develop a personal understanding of ASD and people who have it. They get a chance to communicate and interact with diverse members of the community they serve.

Learn more at You can also contact Emily Iland, at 661-297-4205 or email or email

BE SAFE: Training our Young People to Interact Safely with the Police

The Autism Society of Los Angeles is proud to lead the way for youth and adults with ASD (along with their families, teachers and staff) by providing crucial safety information and training. ASLA continues to work with Iland to bring Experience Autism™ and BE SAFE Interactive Movie Screenings to our community. In 2014-2015 we reached over 500 youth, family members and staff, and more than 200 officers. Most importantly, we brought the officers and members of the community together to get to know one another and learn from each other.

Check out the gallery of our recent events and the links below. Please consider making a donation to ASLA to support this important work. Visit, or contact us on Facebook.

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March 3, 2015, ASLA hosts Experience Autism™ for 60 LAPD Officers.

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June 10-11, 2015 ASLA hosts Experience Autism™ for 100 Burbank Police Officers .

Our ASLA volunteers helped train 70 Los Angeles Police Department Officers with the Experience Autism™ program at Hollywood Substation. Officers are asking us to bring them a BE SAFE Interactive Screening so they can get to know the people with autism in the community they serve! Our training team includes ASLA volunteers who helped train all 100 Burbank Police Department Officers in June 2015 with the Experience Autism™ program. We would love to get funding to have officers meet the local autism community with a BE SAFE Interactive Screening!

Check out these great moments from BE SAFE Interactive Screenings funded by The California Wellness Foundation in 2014. We provided six safety events in English and Spanish that brought together the autism community with local police to learn from one another and practice skills for interacting safely in different everyday situations. We reached over 275 self-advocates and their families/staff and more than 50 police officers. We also gave away 268 free copies of BE SAFE the Movie for families to watch at home and 111 copies of BE SAFE Teaching Edition to help educators work on essential safety skills with students.

safety hc June 26 2014. Participants at a BE SAFE Interactive Movie screening (in Bell Gardens, in Spanish) have a chance to try on handcuffs if they want to. This gives them the sensory experience and a motor memory. Understanding and practicing the procedure, reducing stress if handcuffs ever have to be used in real life for any reason. Photo credit Kyle Duffy, Be Safe The Movie.
safety be safe mp April 9, 2014 Self-advocates at our BE SAFE Interactive Movie Screening at Mychal’s Place in Hawthorne got a chance to know officers from their neighborhood.

More Information and Links

Autism Society of America: The Future is Bright Interview with host Stefani Schaeffer and guest Emily Iland from Be Safe the Movie. Emily gives tips on how to help our children/adults be safe and appropriately interact with law enforcement.

BE SAFE The Movie

The Future Is Bright:

Experience Autism Video:

Experience Autism™

MISSION POSSIBLE 2013 – Autism Awareness Bridging the gap between Law Enforcement and the Autism Society. Dr. Luann P. Pannell, Ph.D., talks about the high-lights of this important event:

MISSION POSSIBLE 2012 Los Angeles Police Department & Autism Society of Los Angeles: