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December 15, 2021 Meeting Minutes - JJS Workshop, Resolve, Relationships w/ Law Enforcements & More

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

PALS Meeting Minutes

December 15, 2021 9:30 a.m.

Virtual Meeting using Zoom

Open Forum

Open Forum is an opportunity for participants to come together and discuss a variety of topics, offer resources, and ask questions related to special education.

Overview of ACPA JJS Workshop

On December 7, 2021 Autism Connection of Pennsylvania hosted a workshop titled When the Worst Thing Happens - Children with Autism in Trouble with the Police. Although the title incorporates the label Autism, the topic can benefit all families, regardless of disability or lack thereof.

Presenters included members of the Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender. This presentation provided information about the juvenile justice system in general and the rights of children with disabilities within that system. Parents learned how to respond when police officers ask to interview their children and what to expect if their children are charged with a crime.

Key take-aways to share with your child (please also watch the attached video for clarity):

  • You want the encounter to END as soon a possible.

  • When stopped by police you don't really have to provide any information to police. To make things go smoother/faster, a child can provide their name, their address, their parent's name and phone number.



  • It is LEGAL to record the police. (STAY DISTANCED)

  • It is NOT legal for the police to tell you to put away your phone, however, you may consider putting it away because police have previously destoryed phones.

  • You NEVER have to consent to a search outside of school.

  • The law says police CANNOT conduct a search unless they have reason to think a crime is occurring and a person is presently armed and dangerous, or you consent.

  • Do your best to REMEMBER the details of a search to share with your attorney.

  • Adults and juvinelles both have the right NOT to speak to police.

  • You NEVER have to take your child to the police when requested.

  • Police CAN lie to you in an effort to gain information from you.

  • Miranda Rights ONLY applies when you have been arrested AND are being questioned.

  • Children have the RIGHT to onsult with an "interested adult" before speaking to police.

  • The key to to REMEMBER that a person MUST say "I don't want to talk to you." and "I want a lawyer." YOU MAY HAVE TO SAY IT MORE THAN ONCE.

  • If the person is NON-VERBAL they can provide a card that indicates as such.

  • Indicating you have a DISABILITY can be beneficial (officers trained to work with people with disabilities), however, at the same time, some officers may not respect those boundaries.

  • In Pennsylvania ALL CHILDREN qualify for an attorney through the public defenders office. Every county does it differently.

  • You want to get an attorney AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

  • The attorney is REQUIRED to do what the child wants, not the parents, not the judge, not the probation officer, etc. The support of the family is very important in gathering information to defend the child.

  • Make sure you tell your (child's) attorney about ANY disability or treatment being provided. ALL is important and the information can help the attorney defend you, the client.

  • Nothing the child says during the INFORMAL ADJUSTMENT PROCESS can be used against them in court.

  • Parents often call the police for help when a child is in crisis. Consider all your options first. Sometimes families end up with children in the JJS because they called seeking help. (please read more of our conversation on this below)

  • Police officers in SCHOOLS only have to have REASONABLE SUSPICION to conduct a search. Miranda Rights STILL able. The child DOES NOT have to speak to the police in school. (please read more of our conversation on this below)

Information of the members of the Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender who presented;

Laura McWilliams, Esq. (she/her)

Phone: (412) 350-2407

C. Christine Porter, Esq. (she/her)

Phone: (412) 212-8488 (cell)

Allison Ware (she/her)

Phone: (412) 350-4272

The overview of the ACPA/JJS workshop led to a wider discussion about seeking assistance from available resources:

  • Calling the police to assist when a child is in crisis in the presences of a parent/caregiver may be the only choice. Many times calling Resolve Crisis Services (Allegheny County) 1-888-YOU-CAN / 1-888-796-8226 results in an hour or longer wait. This wait time is often dangerously long. A call to 911 and the response of law enforcement is much quicker. Read more about our conversations about Resolve.

  • At the PALS February 2019 meeting FCASD School Resource Officer Scott Bailey joined us to talk about his work as a law enforcement officer working with the District Attorney's office to provide training to other first responders on encountering people with autism and Project Lifesaver along with the Premise Alert Packet. Information provided to PLS through the Alert Packet is uploaded into the 911 system and allows dispatchers to relay important information to first responders. If you are concerned about the potential need for law enforcements help, building a relationship with your local police department may be helpful as a proactive point. Read more about this meeting.

  • At the PALS October 2019 meeting Education Civil Rights Attorney Nancy Potter, Esq. join us to talk about a variety of topics. One was security in schools and the presence of police officers. The main take-away for this topic was that police officers that work in schools as a part of the community's police department are NOT bound by IDEA. Read more about this meeting.

  • Remember that police departments also have non-emergency phone numbers that generally go directly to the department and not the county-wide 911 center.

  • When faced with a crisis where a child in your home or someone that you know about is suicidal call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for 24/7 or visit immediate assistance and access to resources.



Working with children while adjusting medication can be difficult. This reminded us about the November 2018 PALS meeting when we were introduced to GeneSight® by a parent who had used it.

"The GeneSight® test analyzes your DNA and helps your doctor get a better understanding of what medication might work best based on your genetic makeup. Using the GeneSight® test report, your doctor can personalize your treatment plan, finding the right medication faster and avoiding medicines that may cause side effects."

Read more of the November 2018 meeting minutes.


Often it can be easy to put everyone else first, especially a differently abled family member. Outbursts and meltdowns can be especially draining. Avoiding parent burnout is REAL and according to the Child Mind Institute experts believe consistent self-care, a strong support network, and a trustworthy therapeutic team for the family member are key. And don't forget about respite care! The Arc, which forwards to Achieva for the greater Pittsburgh area and Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), Office of Developmental Supports (ODS) can be helpful in finding respite care providers.


We briefly discussed what RTII and MTSS stand for:

RTII = Response to Instruction and Intervention

MTSS = Multi-Tiered System of Supports

Read more in our November 2017 meeting minutes.


All teachers should have access to a child's IEP / 504 Plan so that modifications and accommodations are met. If you are concerned a teacher does not have access or is not meeting the requires of your child's IEP or 504 Plan speak up. Make contact with your child's special education teacher, principal, and even the school district's special education director/supervisor. You can also send a copy of your child's IEP / 504 Plan in part or in full directly to the teacher(s). Some families send a copy to all teachers involved with their child at the beginning of the school year with the request that they review it and contact the special education teacher if they have any questions.


Next Meeting: January 26, 2022 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom. Currently scheduled as Open Forum.

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All meetings will be held virtually until further notice.


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