Blog Post View

Temple Terrace Police Department & Individuals with Special Needs: Strategies of Engagement Behavioral Health
By Beverly Resurreccion

On Tuesday, May 17, Engage Behavior Health hosted an informational training session for the Temple Terrace Police Department. The idea for the collaboration with law enforcement derives from the need for more community awareness. A statistic by the FBI in 2001 states that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to come into contact with law enforcement than those without disabilities. Because of this need, Temple Terrace Police Department Training Coordinator,

Scott Brooks, found that it would be beneficial to add this training to the training curriculum. Upon brainstorming with his niece, Tiara Brooks, an ABA therapist at Engage Behavioral Health, both found that it would be beneficial to raise awareness of special needs as it becomes more and more prevalent. All law enforcement officers at the Temple Terrace Police Department will be trained in Strategies of Engagement within the next two weeks.

Engage Behavioral Health specializes in individualized approaches to behavioral therapy tailored to specific needs using Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). It maintains expertise in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as well as a variety of other Developmental/ Neurological Disabilities. How are special needs defined? There are a variety of categories including

Developmental Disorder, Neurological Disorder, Physical Disorder, and Psychological Disorder. Some of the many deficits may include a lack of social communication or social interaction, restrictive/patterns of behavior – all of which cause significant impairment to functioning. There are many levels of severity, but these conditions can share common behaviors. With this being said, the goal of Engage Behavioral Health’s Strategy is to identify the signs of a person with special needs and to find ways to de-escalate the situation for a mutually beneficial outcome.

The strategies of Engage Behavioral Health include understanding the “ABC’s”. This comprises of the antecedent, behavior, and consequence. The antecedent includes the triggers or what occurs just before the behavior. Behavior is identifying the action the individual in which is engaging as well as any precursor behaviors. Lastly, the consequence is what occurs directly after the behavior, the reaction of others or other environmental changes. The practical implications of this might include situations of missing person reports, people wandering in the road, or suspicious persons.

Engage Behavioral Health spoke of two different types of elopement: goal directed and bolting. Goal directed occurs when there is a specific location the person with special needs is attempting to access, whereas bolting transpires when there is no specific destination or the individual is trying to get away from something in the environment. The Temple Terrace Police Department learned about identifying the triggers associated with people with special needs that may lead to elopement or other abnormal behavior. Many of these triggers could be related to sights, sounds, change in routine, novel places/activities, avoiding an adverse situation, or even an officer’s presence, etc. It may include “sensory overload” where a person with special needs could be attracted to or is trying to get away from the triggers.

The Temple Terrace Police Department also learned more antecedent strategies with precursor behaviors and consequence strategies for people with special needs. The other strategies discussed were the “help strategy” and the “wait strategy”. It is important to understand that de-escalation does not immediately decline from 100 to 0. There are many steps towards complete de-escalation, thus it is vital to have patience during the gradual process. However, when all other options are exhausted, restraining and detaining may be necessary.

Engage Behavioral Health has developed a database for the Temple Terrace Police Department to store information about people affected with special needs. Parents are able to provide detailed information about their child with special needs. This database will include photos of the person affected with special needs along with demographic information, common behaviors, triggers, precursors, functioning level, etc. Ultimately, Engage Behavioral Health is constantly finding ways to create positive change and awareness within the community. These training sessions are only the beginning of the process towards long-lasting awareness and change. Additionally, it is vital that law enforcement awareness continuously grows so that it can find better ways to improve and educate police officers. With law enforcement continuously willing to work with the community, progress will follow.