On Tuesday, May 17, Tiara Brooks, ABA therapist and Erica Mataluni, Assistant Clinical Director of Engage Behavior Health presented an informational training session for the Temple Terrace Police Department. 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. 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 necessity, Scott Brooks, the Training Coordinator at the Temple Terrace Police Department, found that it would be beneficial to add this education to the training curriculum. Upon brainstorming with his niece, Tiara Brooks, both found that it would be beneficial to raise awareness of special needs as it becomes more prevalent. Both Tiara Brooks and Erica Mataluni of Engage Behavioral Health spent about eight months to create this detailed training presentation. With the approval of Engage Behavioral Health’s Founder, Jennifer Phelps, as well as Scott Brooks, all law enforcement officers at the Temple Terrace Police Department will now partake in this training within the next two weeks.
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 and social interaction as well as 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 lies in identifying the signs of a person with special needs and utilizing methods of de-escalation to situations for mutually beneficial outcomes.
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 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 applications of the “ABC’s” might include situations of missing person reports, people wandering in the road, or suspicious persons.
Tiara and Erica 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 individuals 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 their triggers.
The Temple Terrace Police Department also learned additional antecedent strategies with precursor behaviors and consequence strategies for individuals 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 this gradual process. However, when all other options are exhausted, restraining and detaining may be necessary.
Additionally, both Tiara Brooks and Erica Mataluni alongside Scott Brooks developed a database to be utilized by the Temple Terrace Police Department. This database will store detailed information about individuals with special needs that may be provided by parents or family. This database will include photos of the individual affected with special needs along with demographic information, common behaviors, triggers, precursors, functioning level, etc. This will allow for the Temple Terrace Police Department to personalize each individual with special needs who is afflicted, thus leading to better outcomes.
Ultimately, Engage Behavioral Health is constantly finding new 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. Furthermore, it is vital that law enforcement responsiveness continuously grows in order to discover better ways to improve and educate police officers. With law enforcement continuously willing to work with the community, progress will then follow.
For more information on Engage Behavioral Health, please visit their website.
Visit Temple Terrace Police Department’s website!
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