661-347-8557 emilyiland@gmail.com

Bridge the Gap Between Law Enforcement and the Autism Community with Experience Autism & BE SAFE The Movie

Autism Action Partnership of Omaha hosted a terrific week of trainings, bringing the autism community and law enforcement together to understand and learn from one another. Three trainings, held June 11-13, represent the IDEAL way to address safety from all sides.

We combined Experience Autism®, a BE SAFE Certificate Course and an Interactive Screening of BE SAFE The Movie, to address the safety of those with autism and related conditions for years to come.

First, we trained 50 local educators, service providers and school resource officers with a BE SAFE Certificate Course. The Certificate Course creates capacity, providing participants with the information and tools they need to help individuals with autism interact safely with the police in all kinds of encounters, ranging from seeing a police dog in a restaurant, to being mistaken for a robber.
In the BE SAFE Certificate Course we view all seven episodes of BE SAFE the Movie and explore the companion curriculum in depth. Participants try out different activities and learn to select teaching tools to reach learners of all abilities.
Certificate Course participants also attend the BE SAFE Interactive Movie Screening. They are then authorized to put on these community safety events as well as use the BE SAFE materials in myriad other ways for direct instruction to youth age 12 and up for years to come.
The next training was Experience Autism® for law enforcement officers. At our Experience Autism® event, Officers from 11 different law enforcement agencies did simulation activities to help them understand what it feels like to have different features of autism. Officers appreciated that we involved local officers, community leaders, and individuals with autism as co-trainers for the event.
The simulations gave officers insight into the features of autism. They had “a ha” moments, developing understanding and empathy. They came up with their own ideas to help and accommodate individuals with autism and related disabilities and accommodate their needs. Several officers commented, “I loved this training!”
Experience Autism® has been validated as effective by an independent researcher who documented that officers felt more informed and prepared to interact with individuals on the spectrum after the training. As far as we know, this makes Experience Autism® the only independently-validated, evidence-based autism police training in the country!
After Experience Autism® we had a pizza party, at which we paired up youth with autism and related disabilities with a police officer one-to-one. This casual time gave officers and youth the chance to get to know one another in an informal way. This set the stage for the activities to come!
The third event, an Interactive Screening of BE SAFE The Movie, brought everything and everyone together. BE SAFE uses video modeling to show viewers what to do in different police encounters. After watching each BE SAFE movie scene, we facilitated activities from the BE SAFE curriculum, and officers helped the youth practice potentially life-saving skills.
Participants had a great time while learning critical safety skills like asking for help, following instructions from the police, showing empty hands to the police, and never touching an officer’s safety equipment. They also practiced self-disclosing their disability.Their comments let us know that the young adults were truly understanding and internalizing these things!
It was great to see the police and the audience come together to get to know and learn from each other. The many benefits of the day were clear to see Officers, youth and their families got more comfortable with one another and formed personal relationships. Youth became familiar with police procedures, instructions and tools. Officers had the chance to know, interact and communicate with diverse members of the community they serve. All of these things together can help keep youth, adults and officers safe in any kind of police encounter, even an emergency situation like a school evacuation or (heaven forbid) a mass shooting.
Everyone at the event witnessed relationships being built to bridge the gap between police and the disability community. We call it “watching the magic happen,” because what we all witnessed is truly ground-breaking and uplifting.

Officers had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to first being trained about autism, and then getting to spend time with youth with autism and similar conditions from the community they serve. In this “eyes on” opportunity they got to know many different people with exceptional needs. They also had a chance to interact and chat with their families and caregivers.

One officer commented that doing Experience Autism® along with a BE SAFE Interactive Movie Screening made it “One of the most beneficial trainings I have attended.” Another said, “This is a game-changer.” All the officers in attendance reported that the “combination” of trainings helped them feel more prepared to interact with individuals with ASD on the job. One officer commented that the opportunity to interact with a student with ASD was “very helpful.”
The participant reaction to the BE SAFE event was also very positive. The students enjoyed spending time with the officers and getting to know them, while learning lessons from BE SAFE The Movie. It was clear that the diverse audience of youth really learned the key safety messages and skills by watching the Movie and doing the structured activities with officers.
After the event, one student said, “I think it was all very well explained. It was also very relaxed and enjoyable. Very good for those on the spectrum who need to understand these things.” Another concluded that the BE SAFE Interactive Movie Screening was, “extremely helpful.”
Thanks to everyone who made this bridge-building event possible. We are thrilled to work with Autism Action Partnership, Goodwill Industries and all the other partners to bring all three trainings to Omaha. It is already clear that there will be a positive impact in the law enforcement and autism/disability communities for years to come.
If you want to bring Experience Autism® and BE SAFE to your community to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the special needs community where you live, contact Emily Iland emily@BeSafeTheMovie.com or call 661-347-8557. We can send you a proposal with details and pricing.

Learn more at
www.emilyiland.com and



Emily Iland is an award-winning author, researcher, film-maker, advocate and leader in the autism field. She is the mother of a young man with ASD and brings personal experience and insight to her professional roles.

She enjoys teaching as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Special Education at California State University, Northridge. Emily is also an engaging professional speaker and trainer, presenting a variety of topics in English and Spanish across the US and abroad.

Download Emily Iland M.A. Curriculum Vitae



Tom Iland was diagnosed with autism at 13, and has worked hard to achieve many of his goals: full-time employment, driving, living in his own apartment and having a girlfriend.


He has presented numerous workshops and trainings for: The Autism Society of Los Angeles, The Council of Exceptional Children, Future Horizons, The HELP Group, Autism Conferences of America, and Loyola-Marymount University just to name a few. He is also on the Board of Directors for a number of not-for-profit organizations including Autism Speaks, The Art of Autism, and Junior Chamber International. His public speaking skills have made him one of only about 4,000 Distinguished Toastmasters in the world!

Download Thomas Iland, CPA, DTM Curriculum Vitae


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