October 28, 2020

policeAs parents, we all hope that our children will never have an unpleasant encounter with the police. We teach them to obey the laws, to stay out of dangerous situations, and to respect police officers and authority figures. When a child has autism, however, things can get tricky.

Teens and adults with autism generally do not have any physical characteristics that identify them as disabled to strangers. They look like any other teen or young adult, until they start acting strangely. Police officers are trained to investigate suspicious behavior, and people with autism have a tendency to act in ways that can draw unwanted attention.

The news often reports stories of teens and young adults with autism being beaten, tazed, and unjustly accused of crimes they didn’t commit, because the police did not understand the individual’s disability. Groups like Autism Speaks have created first responder curriculums to educate police officers, but this can only go so far. It is important for parents and schools to teach individuals with autism how to safely interact with police officers and other authority figures as well.

The BE SAFE curriculum does just that. The movie and curriculum teach seven basic safety skills in a format designed for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. They are:

1. Follow the law to be safe
2. Stay where you are when you meet the police
3. Keep your hands to yourself when you met the police (don’t touch their stuff!)
4. When the police tell you to do something, just do it
5. Tell the police about your disability
6. Remain silent if arrested
7. How to call 911

Each lesson is explored in a know, think, do format that clearly states what the proper response to most situations would be. Various scenarios are role-played for the viewer, using real police officers, with narration and post-scenario interviews with the actors explaining why the proper actions kept the individual safe. The curriculum suggests live role-playing as a follow-up to watching the movie.

Response to the BE SAFE curriculum has been positive. Kathy Kay, Executive Director at West-Central Independent Living Solutions, says,

“. . . I have found the curriculum for “Be Safe the Movie” to be invaluable. It has created a bond between our center and the Police Departments for all the counties we serve, as well as helped our youth populations. With the movie, we are able to present youth with disabilities the tools to stay safe and keep interactions with the police non-confrontational and positive. . . I highly recommend it to schools,

“Centers for Independent Living, parents, and anyone else who wants to create a bridge for disabled to interact and be independent in their communities.”

Dr. Stephen Shore, an adult with autism, says, “An excellent tool for bringing safety education into the classroom and beyond. Ideal for school, home, and community programs for learners with ASD and similar conditions.”

The 1 hour DVD costs $24.95 and the full kit with the Curriculum Guide CD Rom is $74.95

For more information about BE SAFE, visit their web site at www.besafethemovie.com.

To find out more about screenings visit their Facebook Page here and their YouTube trailer is below:

About the author 

Laurel Joss

Laurel Joss is a freelance writer with a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She worked as an RDI® Program Certified Consultant and has published articles in Autism Spectrum Quarterly and on her blog www.remediatingautism.blogspot.com. She is a mother to two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. You can also follow her on https://twitter.com/speaking_autism and https://www.facebook.com/speaking.autism.ca

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