Aussie mum trains Queensland Police Service to respond to autistic people

Kathrine Peereboom, Founder & Chief Executive Officer at Spectrum Support

Kathrine Peereboom, mother of three autistic boys is continuing her passion to ensure that no person on the spectrum is ever put in a position where their dignity or safety is compromised by a first responder or service provider due to lack of awareness or ignorance.

Peereboom is providing autism training to Queensland Police Service officers across Queensland.

Peereboom is no stranger to training police. Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Spectrum Support, a leading provider of autism training, advocacy and awareness-raising.

Peereboom’s expertise in dealing with autism

She personally developed an autism training program which she delivered to hundreds of NSW Police in 2019, earning her The Commissioner’s Safety Initiative Award the same year.

“I am absolutely honoured to be working with the Queensland Police Service,” Peereboom said.

“Many autistic people have faced upsetting and dangerous situations as their safety and human rights have been violated due to a lack of understanding by those confronting them.”

“Unless you understand autism and its impact on people, their behaviour, actions and ability to communicate, understand and respond, you can perceive their actions as non-compliance or that they are being difficult when in fact they simply don’t have the capacity to engage.”

“Or they simply engage in a different way.”

Queensland Police working with Spectrum Support

Spectrum Support began working with the Queensland Police Service in late 2020.

“We were invited by Senior Sergeant Gregory Giles who has been instrumental in training police in mental health interventions and strategies for over seven years,” Peereboom said.

“We successfully developed a two-hour course called Autism and Law Enforcement and we have delivered this in Brisbane, Mackay, Townsville, Rockhampton, Cairns and other locations to specialised groups of between thirty and a hundred police officers at a time.”

“Officers include all ranks, detectives, constables and senior sergeants.”

Sergeant Giles developed The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Project after identifying the need that front-line police officers required better skills and knowledge to deal with the ever-increasing issue of mental illness within their various communities of deployment.

Sergeant Giles additionally said, “This training is the first of its kind to be delivered in Queensland and provides participants with the skill, knowledge and attitude to improve officers’ performance and provide a better service to the community in Queensland.”

“Bringing together experts across multiple disciplines provides officers exposure to a range of contact scenarios, engagement strategies and promotes a more inclusive community.”

“Every day police officers encounter a multitude of people in emergency situations.”

“Just as each emergency situation differs from the next, so does the individual involved, especially when it comes to people on the spectrum. Police are expertly trained to respond to crisis situations with certain protocols, but these may not suit interactions with autistic people.”

“Given police are often first responders in an emergency, it is critical for police officers to have a good understanding and working knowledge of autism, and the broad range of behaviours that people on the spectrum can exhibit in emergency situations so as to adapt.”

“The courses equip police officers with the skill and knowledge to deal with these situations.”

“An autistic person may have an impaired sense of danger, be scared of police, avoid eye contact, have delayed speech or language skills or be able to respond to verbal commands.”

“They may engage in repetitive behaviour such as rocking, stimming, or hand flapping, react with fight or flight actions or experience epilepsy or seizures.”

“They can often also reach out for shiny objects such as badges, handcuffs or weapons. It is essential that police officers understand these behaviours and how to work with them.”

“The training which has been developed extensively with the autism community is designed to support officers to better protect and serve and increase community confidence.”

“I want my sons to grow up in a world where they are safe, understood and supported. The training for Queensland Police is provided on a voluntary basis, as it was for NSW Police.”

“It is important to me that I can make a positive contribution to society.”

Spectrum Support for a better society for autistic Aussies

Spectrum Support is a national organisation committed to improving through training and education – awareness and support for, and the quality of public and private services provided to, autistic Australians and those living with other special needs.

Founded by Kathrine Peereboom in 2017, a mother of three autistic boys with coexisting conditions, Spectrum Support has achieved significant milestones in a short period of time:

  • Partnering with two of Australia’s largest police services, Queensland Police Service and NSW Police, to deliver autism training to front line officers across the states.
  • Winning the NSW Police Commissioner’s Safety Initiative award
  • Developing the world’s first emergency response global symbol for Autism – the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Talisman
  • Developing a catalogue of autism training for law enforcement, ambulance, the security industry, Allied Health and other leading first responders and service providers.
  • Global recognition and awards for its innovative and groundbreaking work to make the world a safer and more thoughtful and fulfilling place for those with special needs.