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Autism and ADHD can be complicated.


Both of these conditions can be difficult to understand, and in the PREVENT arena can lead to errors of judgments and much distress.


When we are in a vulnerable situation many of us rely on our ’sixth sense” or ‘gut reaction’ to work out something is wrong.  We will use our ability to visualise outcomes to assess if someone is safe, or if our actions are going to lead to us or other people getting hurt either physically or emotionally.  This processing helps to keep us safe.


This is not the case for people diagnosed with Autism and ADHD.


People with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder or ADHD find this difficult as the way their brains process situations and people around them are not giving them that information.


Then add to that the challenges of friends and relationships.


Our social groups can be many and varied and we learn how to adjust our interactions to people around us and work out which people are just going to use us for their own ends.


Imagine not being able to do that.


Being ostracised, bullied – feeling an outsider or lonely. How vulnerable are you then to being groomed by someone who will be your ‘friend’, help you feel part of a group, let you have some responsibility or convince you to leave home as others don’t understand you like they do.


This is what can happen and we need to understand.


As we have said this is complicated and needs careful handling, but you are not on your own.


When investigating a possible Prevent case where a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorders has been disclosed, great care needs to be taken on how the individual is visited in the family home, taken into custody, prepared for questioning and how questions are asked of them, their family and any possible perpetrators. This is bespoke to the individual and we would recommend that a telephone call to ourselves is made to go through how to proceed. That said some key things to remember are:-


  • They will need someone with them who understands how their Autism presents, their anxieties, sensory issues and their language processing difficulties.

  • If they have been told that their family will be harmed if they share information with anyone, they will truly believe that.

  • They may feel they are being unkind to their ‘friend’ by talking to the police about them and become very distressed.

  • Their stimming behaviours will increase significantly when they become overwhelmed and anxious.

  • They can only process short direct questions.

  • They can find answering questions about emotions and opinions almost impossible.

  • If you ask the same questions several times, they may think you are doing that because they gave you the wrong answer the first time, like in a test at School. They may keep changing the answer until they ‘get it right’ rather than it being a true version of what has actually happened or that they are trying to hide something from you.

  • If you are going to take them into custody they will need a lot of information about what is going to happen to enable them to be calm enough to go without any challenging behaviours. All their challenging behaviours come from fear, anxiety, frustration and sensory overwhelm. Again, please speak to us to get specific information on how to handle these situations.

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Case Study two


A young person, who had been excluded from School, was spending his days watching inappropriate violent material on line then watching the news with his mother and younger sister at 6pm, this was the one family activity they did together. Mum was living with her own mental health issues and was impaired in the ability to direct her son and manage his challenging behaviour. Both were very anxious and the YP was becoming violent towards his mother, waving knives in the kitchen at her when asked to do something he didn’t want to do. After the Paris Attack, he became obsessed with ISIS and watched this constantly on the internet and on the news. On a home visit he was shouting “Death to ISIS” and calling his mum ISIS. Mum was terrified of him, and other professionals had felt this was a Prevent referral.


We discussed this at length with the local CT team and Social Services, providing specialist input in relation to his diagnosis giving explanations as to his behaviours, with the final conclusion being that this wasn’t a Prevent issue, but another home based obsession along the lines of previous presentations directed at mum, that would soon change to a different subject area. This was handled by Social Care and a decision taken for the child to be placed in emergency foster care to enable support to be put in place for the whole family.


We have some very real concerns around certain Cultures who wouldn’t acknowledge that a family member may have a disability. We then have the possibility of a young person who is extremely vulnerable through having an undiagnosed ASD presentation due to family denial, that makes that YP very susceptible to being radicalised and manipulated and the family may be completely unaware or unable to admit too. In these cases a full assessment from a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist would be highly recommended.  


Case Study one


We had been supporting a young person with a diagnosis of ASD and ADHD for sometime when a disclosure was made about films created by, and views of a relative of white extremism and anti-Islamic propaganda.  


He was becoming more verbal about how all Muslims should be killed and how he had been told to keep his opinions a secret.


We worked closely with the CT team locally to explore the truth of his allegations and establish how significantly he had been groomed. Given he was due to go away on a trip over the summer, it was felt important to ensure this was fully investigated and a plan put together to support all involved before this could happen as he could become further embroiled in views and opinions that could lead to significantly dangerous outcomes.


Support was provided for the CT team in understanding how to question both him and the relative to get a clear indication of the depth of the issue. We provided immediate intervention for the young person on challenging his opinions and giving him much on-going support to pursue other interests and friendship groups. Work was carried out on being able to keep himself safe and the inappropriateness of expressing such opinions.  Work was differentiated to allow for his processing issues because of his diagnosis and meant that he was more settled and safe, so as to enable him to enjoy the NCS experience during the summer.  He continues to access us for monitoring and feels more comfortable and safe in sharing his thoughts and opinions and being given clear direction on his boundaries of those he chooses to spend time with.