VirTra releases new autism awareness training curriculum for law enforcement


TEMPE, Ariz. —  VirTra, Inc., a global provider of training simulators for the law enforcement, military, educational and commercial markets, has released new V-VICTA (VirTra Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy) training curriculum designed to help law enforcement professionals bridge the communication gap and interact more effectively, and positively, with individuals with autism. To develop the Autism Awareness simulation training program, VirTra partnered with the renowned experts at SARRC (Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center).

This first-of-its-kind curriculum and virtual reality scenarios, include actors diagnosed with autism as well as modules covering a variety of topics, including recognition, communication strategies and best practices for law enforcement officers.

An agency-wide demonstration of the scenario-based trainings will be given by the Harford County (Maryland) Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday, June 6, following a press conference at 10:30 a.m. ET. The Sheriff’s Office is located at 1305 Pulaski Highway, Edgewood, MD.

According to the most recent data from the CDC, 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with autism in the United States, and estimates suggests that 50,000 teens with autism transition into adulthood each year. The growing number of diagnoses and increasing population indicate that it is highly likely that a law enforcement officer will come into contact with someone on the autism spectrum.

“I think helping police officers understand the social differences with people with autism (who they might interact with) is what’s really critical,” says Dr. Daniel Openden, president and CEO of SARRC. “Usually training stops at talking to people, not practicing with feedback. Knowledge-based didactic training for police officers is good if we want to increase knowledge, but if we really want to change behavior and interactions out on the street, then we have to do behavior-based training. That’s what VirTra built into the technology, and that’s what’s really going to make a difference.”

The V-VICTA curriculum was designed by VirTra’s in-house subject matter experts and SARRC professionals, and has been previewed and beta tested by some of VirTra’s current law enforcement customers. Both the written lesson plan and simulator scenarios were reviewed extensively by various members of law enforcement around the country.

Chief Allen Muma of Jerome Police Department, Arizona, who tested the curriculum, commented: “I just fell in love with it. VirTra is forward-looking. It’s not just shoot/don’t shoot. Now, they’re offering scenarios and more training, so you get this auditory or visual learning from watching it, but then you get that kinesthetic learning from actually practicing what you just learned, which actually is proven to hold in your mind longer.”

Lon Bartel, Director of Training and Curriculum at VirTra, added: “We hope that by offering this new curriculum, officers will be better equipped to handle an encounter with autistic persons. If we can educate officers so that they know what signs and behaviors to look for, and how to respond appropriately, then we will reach better outcomes.”

The Autism Awareness curriculum has been added to VirTra’s ever-expanding library and is available to customers with VOS® 4.6 or later and will be delivered during their Annual Service Visit if they are on a current plan that provides one. For more information about this cutting-edge curriculum, visit VirTra’s autism training information page here.

About SARRC
Established in 1997, the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) is an internationally recognized nonprofit that conducts innovative research, provides evidence-based practices, disseminates effective training and builds inclusive communities for individuals with autism and their families. SARRC is dedicated to autism research, education, evidence-based treatment, and community outreach. Additionally, SARRC is one of the only autism organizations in the world that provides a lifetime of services for individuals and their families while also conducting cutting edge research. 

About VirTra
VirTra is a global provider of judgmental use of force training simulators, firearms training simulators and driving simulators for the law enforcement, military, educational and commercial markets. The company’s patented technologies, software, and scenarios provide intense training for de-escalation, judgmental use-of-force, marksmanship and related training that mimics real-world situations. VirTra’s mission is to save and improve lives worldwide through practical and highly-effective virtual reality and simulator technology. Learn more about the company at www.VirTra.com.

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