For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 35

tend to be hypersensitive to sounds or touch.8
The family of the teen with autism filed a notice
of claim, often the precursor to a lawsuit, detailing
the "emotional damages" and "significant
economic harm" the teen and his family suffered.
The family is also claiming the arresting officer
used excessive force. The notice of claim also states
Buckeye violated the Americans With Disabilities
Act by failing to train the arresting officer about
disabilities and by discriminating against the teen
on his disability. According to the family's attorney,
"The failure to reasonably accommodate a person's
disability in the course of an investigation or arrest
and wrongful arrest-which involves 'misperceiving
the effects of a disability' with criminal activity-are
considered discrimination." A city spokesperson
said the city is reviewing the claim and no other
information is available.9
What occurred in the Arizona case aptly
illustrates the many issues attorneys may confront
when representing clients with ASD. What follows
are pointers on what to expect and how best to
handle the client with ASD during the interview
and in the courtroom.

Pointers for the Client Interview
Your client's first contact with you as his attorney
is often the interview. Individuals with ASD require
predictability and knowing what to expect.10 Illprepared for what is ahead, the client arrives at
your office reception area brimming with anxiety.
He or she rejects your attempt to shake hands
because the client dislikes being touched.11 He or
she looks down at the floor and not at you. This is
because he or she can process information more
easily when looking away.
The client follows you into your office not
knowing where to sit. Once seated, the client
begins tapping his or her feet, fidgeting or twirling
a pen from your desk. This can be "stimming"
behavior, which takes many forms including
spinning, tapping objects, and tapping or rubbing
skin in a repetitive manner.13 He or she is then faced
with answering questions about the arrest. The
client may not understand what is being asked and
may respond by telling you about his or her recent
day at the beach or the dog he or she observed
at the shopping mall. That is because the client
is often unable to stay on topic when talking or
answering questions.14 More likely than not, when
your client does talk about what happened, he

or she will tell the truth and will not intentionally
attempt to manipulate the situation. That is
because many individuals with ASD are known to
'tell it as it is' or 'never tell a lie.'15

Useful Tips
What follows are recommendations on how
to best approach these challenges you will likely
encounter.
1. When introducing yourself to the client,
refrain from hand-shaking and simply say,
"Hi, I am your attorney, Sam Smith. It is nice
to meet you. Please follow me this way to my
office."
2. When the client arrives at your office, direct
him or her where to sit and to remove his or
her outdoor coat if it applies.
3. Speak in a calm, non-threatening voice and
tone.
4. Keep a distance of a few feet between you
and the client.
5. During the interview, offer the client an
opportunity for a break or to get up and
walk around.
6. If possible, use soft lighting, such as desk
or floor lamps, instead of an overhead
fluorescent light.
7. Ask the client if he or she wants a drink or
needs anything. Also, be sure to say where
the bathroom is located and accompany the
client to be certain he or she knows how to
get there.
8. As soon as you begin the interview, explain in
simple terms why you are meeting with your
client and your role as the attorney.
9. Provide information and explanations in
short sentences and not too much at one
time. Regularly ask the client, "Do you
understand what I just said?" and "Do you
have any questions?"
10. Explain your client's behavior that resulted
in the arrest. Say, for example, "You pushed
Mr. Maxwell and he hit his head on the table.
Do you remember doing that?"
11. Refrain from making a joke or using idioms
or sarcasm. Your client with ASD interprets
language literally. He does not understand
jokes, sarcasm, or teasing.16 If you were to
say, for example, "It's raining cats and dogs,"
your client will look to the sky for cats and
dogs.
Vol. 4, Issue 2

l

For The Defense

35



For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2

Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 1
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 2
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 4
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 5
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 6
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 7
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 8
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 9
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For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 11
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 12
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 13
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 14
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 15
For the Defense - Vol. 4, Issue 2 - 16
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