Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Nicole Harris


Developmental Disabilities; Intellectual Disability; Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); Law Enforcement; Criminal Justice System; Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process; Training Program


Background: It has been found that individuals who have disabilities such as developmental disabilities (DD), intellectual disabilities (ID), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are more likely to have interactions with members of law enforcement and the criminal justice system (Gendle & Woodhams, 2005; Henshaw & Thomas, 2012; Rava, Shattuck, Rast, & Roux, 2017; Spaan, & Kaal, 2019). It has also been suggested that symptoms of such disabilities can influence the ways in which law enforcement engage and interact with these individuals (Gardner, Campbell, & Westdal, 2018). Lack of knowledge, insufficient training, personal experiences, and barriers to communication have been identified as the common themes that affect the interactions between individuals with disabilities and members of law enforcement.

Purpose: The purpose of this scholarly project was to develop an interactive training program for individuals with disabilities and members of law enforcement. The program is grounded in occupational therapy theory to allow the two populations to improve interactions with one another.

Methods: The program developers conducted a review of literature looking specifically at ASD, ID, DD, law enforcement, criminal justice, and training that is provided to members of such populations. Through the literature review, gaps were identified in current literature and training including a lack of research from the United States, outdated research, and trainings that do not address both populations. Next, the role of occupational therapy in addressing the problem was identified using the Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process (American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA], 2014). Finally, an interactive training program consisting of three, two-hour sessions was developed.

Conclusions: The training program titled Understanding Us: An Interactive Training Program for Individuals with Disabilities and Members of Law Enforcement was designed to be implemented by occupational therapy practitioners and occupational therapy students to foster more positive interactions between individuals with disabilities and members of law enforcement.