In the first known initiative of its kind here , a small information card (Z-card) has been developed and provided to more than 1,000 officers across the Northern Area, which covers the four council areas of - Antrim and Newtownabbey, Mid and East Antrim, Causeway Coast and Glens and Mid-Ulster.
The Z-card contains key information for officers to consider when engaging with an autistic person, such as finding a quiet place away from distractions and being specific and direct when asking questions.
Posters have also been developed and will be visible within police stations and custody suites in the Northern Trust Area.
The Northern Area Autism Reference group has also been involved in the initiative.
It is an independent group covering the same geographical area as the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and takes in Larne, Carrickgergus and Newtownabbey.
The group participates in influencing, supporting and advising service-providers in making sure that the services they provide for all autistic people are accessible, appropriate and equitable, whilst working to reduce stigma attached to Autism.
Jayne Colville, ASD Service Improvement Coordinator with the Northern Trust, said: “I have been delighted to be involved in such a tremendous initiative with the PSNI which has been informed and guided by the experience of our service users, our experts.
“The Northern Area Autism Reference group were also involved in the design of the Z-Card to which I offer my thanks.
“In developing this card and poster the hope is that this will inform and educate PSNI officers, providing them with a better understanding of ASD and that, in turn, will improve the interactions and lives of our autistic community members.”
The new initiative comes on the back of a scoping exercise to gauge the experiences of autistic individuals who had encountered PSNI services.
Autistic people, their families and friends, were asked what they wanted the PSNI to know about Autism as well as any views they had on how interactions could be improved.
Mark Cavanagh PSNI Operational Lead for Mental Health said: “I very much welcome the initiative and hope it helps prepare our officers for instances when they meet people with ASD.
“I would like to thank the Northern Trust for working with us to improve our officers understanding of autism and hope those with the condition benefit as a result of this.”