Appropriate adults, their experiences and understanding of autism spectrum disorder

Joanne Richards, Becky Milne

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An appropriate adult (AA) is required by law, to support juveniles and vulnerable adults during custody procedures. This paper explored the opinions and knowledge of AAs and how the characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) could disadvantage an individual within a police interview. A questionnaire was administered to AAs who had received training to carry out their duties (N=55). AAs were asked a number of questions concerning suspects with ASD. Overall, the questionnaire found that AAs had some awareness of the key features of ASD. However, AAs were less aware of the possible impact these characteristics could have upon the interview process. Nevertheless, when asked about actual practice, fifteen incidents were reported where it was deemed that the characteristics of ASD disrupted interview procedures. For example, it was reported that suspects with ASD displayed repetitive and rigid behaviour patterns that interfered with the flow of the interview. Encouragingly, the self-reported data suggested that AAs were able to respond effectively to these actual incidents. That withstanding it is suggested that AA training should include information about how those with ASD might be at a disadvantage within the forensic interview environment and outline strategies that AAs could use to help a person with ASD fully engage within the criminal justice process.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103675
Number of pages11
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Early online date18 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • appropriate adult
  • criminal justice system
  • vulnerability


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