LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 9, 2017) — The University of Kentucky Police Department received Police Autism Community Training (PACT) yesterday by Abbey Love, an educational psychology doctoral student at UK and creator of PACT. The two-hour session included classroom instruction, scenario-based simulations and visual materials focused on improving miscommunication among law enforcement officials and individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Love taught a classroom of 30 UKPD officers how the brain processes information differently for those with ASD, which can lead to deficits in social communication and repetitive patterns of behavior. She deconstructed behavior typical in individuals with ASD and gave proactive solutions for law enforcement to effectively communicate in a way those individuals would understand.
“There is difficulty in interpreting behaviors during high-tense situations,” Love said. “These difficulties can be decreased with proper training, education and possibly through increasing interactions with individuals with ASD.”
Growing up with a sibling with ASD, Love had a lifelong interest in raising awareness of the disorder and finding creative ways to help others communicate effectively to her brother. Since developing PACT, Love has trained nearly 300 law enforcement officers and recruits with Lexington Police, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, and three police departments outside of Lexington. She has also coordinated five meet-and-greet opportunities in Lexington that provided a safe space for police officers and individuals with autism to practice positive interactions outside of a crisis or emergency situation.
UKPD learned about Abbey Love’s autism research through a UKNOW article and reached out to her directly. Her teachings deepened the existing knowledge base of UKPD officers who completed prior ASD sessions. Topics included statistics, general behavior, and best practices, and a quick reference guide was also distributed to participants.
“We appreciate the service UK officers give to our community and thank them for giving us time to talk about something that we feel is crucial to the safety of our loved ones,” Love said.
UKPD officers are also undergoing Crisis Intervention Team training to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness with a primary focus on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. Furthermore, the police department is in discussion with UK's Office of LGBTQ* Resources to receive SafeZone training and finding ways to enhance inclusivity and understanding between students and law enforcement.
“Training has always played an integral role in our agency,” said UKPD Chief Joe Monroe. “We are very fortunate to benefit from the innovative research and collaboration at UK.”
Police Autism Community Training seeks to increase awareness and knowledge of individuals with autism spectrum disorder to law enforcement officials. PACT is focused on educating law enforcement officials, as well as individuals with autism and their families, to successfully interact with one another. The training aims to prepare all parties for a crisis situation with newly developed tools at their disposal with an emphasis on safety. Love offers safety materials and trainings to the community free of charge with a small material charge for larger departments.
UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue