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Appearing in Court for Individuals with Autism

Strategies for Justice System Professionals

  1. Justice scales and a gavel.Provide a visual schedule of the court day at least a day in advance to the individual with autism
  2. Give specific guidance on what to wear in court.
  3. Practice addressing the judge.
  4. If possible, walk through the courtroom to give the individual a visual to help prepare for the court appearance.
  5. Give the individual warning about the metal detectors and wands.
  6. Prepare all court personnel about the individual’s autism diagnosis (e.g, Judge, District Attorney, Public Defender, Victim Witness Advocate, Stenographer, Bailiff) and try to make the courtroom “sensory friendly” (dim lights, minimize noise).
  7. Allow extra processing time for questions and testimony from the individual due to language difficulties and remind all staff to avoid vague and abstract language.
  8. Explain to all court staff, especially the victim, his/her family, and the victim advocate, that expressing empathy may be difficult.
  9. Prepare individual for the various dispositions that could happen at the hearing.

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.