661-347-8557 emilyiland@gmail.com

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

Thanks to Fantastic Friends of the San Fernando Valley for inviting us to facilitate
two terrific safety events on March 24, 2018 in Chatsworth, CA!

The ideal two-part safety training, combining Experience Autism® and an Interactive Screening of BE SAFE The Movie was hosted by Fantastic Friends San Fernando Valley in Chatsworth CA on Saturday March 24. The event helped Los Angeles Police Department officers understand and interact with people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and similar disabilities.

“People with disabilities can be at greater risk for a police encounter, but less prepared to interact safely with police,” said Ruby Flores, Commander of the LAPD Community Policing and Policy Group. “There are two parts to the safety solution, training law enforcement about disabilities, and helping our youth and adults with special needs understand how to interact safely with the police. The LAPD is proud to partner with Fantastic Friends San Fernando Valley in promoting positive relationships between officers and people with disabilities.”

First, eleven officers from the Community Relationship Division, Foothill Area and Youth Programs Unit participated in Experience Autism.® The empathy-based training helped officers learn to recognize and respond effectively to those on the autism spectrum. Experience Autism® was designed by program creator Emily Iland, and facilitated by Iland along with her son Tom, who himself has autism.

Officer Joe Orlanes and other LAPD officers try a simulation from Experience Autism® to understand autism


Officers participated in several simulations that gave them insight into the features of autism. They learned how to interact with individuals on the spectrum and accommodate their needs.

Officer Scott and Sgt. Price try a simulation from Experience Autism® to help them understand how to interact more effectively with people with autism.

Next, the trained officers were paired with youth with disabilities from Fantastic Friends for an Interactive Screening of BE SAFE The Movie. BE SAFE uses video modeling to show viewers what to do in different police encounters. After watching each BE SAFE movie scene, LAPD officers helped youth practice potentially life-saving skills. BE SAFE co-facilitator Tom Iland, explained, “It’s great to see the police and the audience come together to get to know and learn from each other. It helps everyone feel more prepared for emergency situations.”


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. Everyone at the event witnessed relationships being built to bridge the gap between police and the disability community.

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. The participant reaction to the BE SAFE event was also very positive. The teens enjoyed spending time with the officers and getting to know them, while learning lessons from BE SAFE The Movie. After the event, one teen said, “I am glad I came today and I learned all the safety rules that will keep me safe when I am approached by an officer.” Another concluded, “Police officers are cool people.”

Participants at the BE SAFE Interactive Movie Screening enjoyed getting to know LAPD officers

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 mass shooting.

Sgt. Cornel Sandoz of the Los Angeles Police Department Community Relationship Division, makes friends with Jessica and her furry pals. At the Experience Autism® training, officers learned to use special interests to engage and relate with people on the autism spectrum. Sgt. Sandoz put this into practice at the interactive screening of BE SAFE The Movie

Thanks to everyone who made this bridge-building event possible including officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Community Relationship Division, Foothill Division and Youth Programs Unit. We appreciate Lisa Carreon of Fantastic Friends for organizing the event, Ric Mandell of Farmers Insurance and other funders, Regency Lighting of Chatsworth for providing the space and everyone who donated the delicious food!

Participants at the BE SAFE Interactive Movie Screening enjoyed getting to know LAPD officers.

Our next “Bridging the Gap” event will be in Omaha the week of June 10, followed by our return to Phoenix on August 17. 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 .

Learn more at www.ExperienceAutism.com, www.BeSafeTheMovie.com, www.emilyiland.com and www.thomasiland.com

(photo credits Kevin Lieberman & Emily Iland)



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.



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 and he is on his way to becoming one of 76 Accredited Speakers in the world!

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