MyODP News Online

Autism & The Courts: Statewide Panel

Nov. 17, 2020 from 3 - 4:30 P.M.

Banner with a blue background reading Autism & the Courts: A Statewide Panel, November 17th from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pmCommitted to access to justice for Pennsylvanians with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, along with the Department of Human Services (DHS) is pleased to announce an upcoming virtual forum – Autism and the Courts – a Statewide Discussion, aimed at learning about court experiences from individuals with ASD.

Spearheaded by Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty on behalf of the Court, and Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations Director Regina Wall, the virtual kick-off roundtable will be held Nov. 17, with regionally scheduled discussions to follow.

“Earlier this year, the Supreme Court signaled its commitment to Pennsylvanians with autism by forming a first-of-its-kind partnership with the Department of Human Services to heighten our focus on helping judges better understand and communicate with individuals with ASD,” said Justice Dougherty. 

“Education and awareness are critical to ensuring we are providing for the needs of all court users, especially those with an ASD,” Dougherty said. “The more we learn, the more we grow as a system and as a community, but most importantly in our ability to be part of the type of positive change that will impact Pennsylvania families.”

Wall adds, “Through this important collaboration, we hope to promote a greater understanding of  Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability. While the focus must always remain on diverting individuals from situations involving the justice system,  we know these interactions occur.   Ensuring that justice system professionals have an understanding of the needs of individuals will promote better outcomes."

Each virtual forum will feature representatives from the judiciary, law enforcement, healthcare, social work, and advocacy communities along with those living with and/or supporting someone with an ASD. Through the discussions, the Court and DHS will hear first-hand about challenges faced in regions across the state from providers and individuals with autism alike as they seek access to justice.

With nearly one in 59 children diagnosed with an ASD, judges hearing cases in criminal, juvenile, orphans’, family court, etc. are sure to have individuals living with autism come before them.

In addition, as part of this effort, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the courts have added information and resources for families supporting an individual with autism on the Pennsylvania Courts frequently asked questions page.

Join Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty along with DHS and representatives from the judiciary, law enforcement, healthcare, social work, and advocacy communities and those living with and/or supporting someone with ASD for a virtual roundtable on challenges faced by individuals with autism as they seek access to justice.

Click here to register!