Forensic Interview Preparation 


a) Preparing for the Interview

   i) General knowledge of ASD only part of the preparation necessary

     (1) Autism spectrum disorders are complex, with wide-ranging variation in


   ii) Need understanding of how ASD impacts this particular child

   iii) May have difficulty with traditional models

      (1) Adjust process to meet child's needs

b) Gather Information

    i) Gather information from those familiar with the child, such as

       (1) Parent or primary caregiver(s)

       (2) School personnel

       (3) Professionals who provide services

           (a) Occupational therapists, speech therapists, counselors I therapists

           (b) Neurologist or other professional who has conducted an assessment

   ii) Gather information through

      (1) Speaking with sources

      (2) Written reports or assessments

   iii) Gather information from multiple sources

      (1) Different relationships, different settings

          (a) Information may be dissimilar, yet equally valuable

          (b) Differing reports as separate information, rather than more- or less-accurate

     (2) Interviewer may speak with child's caregiver

          (a) Before date I time of the forensic interview

     (3) Collecting Information from multiple sources

         (a) Member of the MDT who is not the interviewer

         (b) Provide pertinent information to interviewer prior to the interview

    (4) Allow time to use the information gathered to prepare for and plan

c) Utilize information to adapt and modify the interview

   i) This may work to:

     (1) Increase the child's comfort

     (2) Impact the child's ability to participate in the interview

     (3) Allow an opportunity for the child to provide forensically relevant information

 Areas of Consideration

a) Cognitive Ability

   i) May display functioning in the range of mental retardation, but not necessarily

     (1) Cognitive functioning is not considered in determining diagnosis of ASD

         (a) Criteria for Asperger's Disorder: No cognitive delay

   ii) Children present with a wide range of ability

       (1) Some significantly delayed

       (2) Others have cognitive abilities highly above average

  iii) Not uncommon to display variation in abilities, presenting as higher functioning in some areas than in others

  iv) Information to gather

       (1) Overall level of cognitive functioning

       (2) Specific areas

            (a) Delays or concerns

            (b) Higher functioning

            (c) Incongruence

   v) During the interview

       (1) Adapt the interview based upon the individual child's needs and abilities

            (i) Assess and adjust throughout interview based upon presenting factors

            (ii) Avoid assumptions

      (2) Consider other elements in addition to cognitive functioning

b) Communication

    i) Impairment in language development is a core feature in diagnosis of ASD

       (1) Exception is Asperger's Disorder

   ii) Difficulties in using language for communication likely to be present, although

       (1) Wide range in degree of impairment between children

       (2) An individual child may display variation and inconsistence in language and

            communication skills and abilities. Use of language for communication, and manner of communicating (CDC)

   iii) Information to gather

       (1) Strengths and challenges

       (2) Verbal communication

             (i) Ability and degree

            (ii) Echolalia

            (iii) Unique words or phrases

   (iv) Speech

        (3) Receptive and expressive abilities

        (4) Non-verbal methods

        (5) Augmentative or alternative communication

             (a) Augmentative/alternative communication vs. facilitated communication

             (b) Interviewer must be educated in specific child's use

    v) During the interview

        (1) Limited verbal abilities may present challenges, does not necessarily preclude

             child's participating in the interview

        (2) Adjust interview based upon child's abilities

        (3) Utilize /maximize areas of strength

        (4) Additional notes regarding communication:

             (a) Concrete and literal

                  (i) Avoid figures of speech, joking/sarcasm

             (b) Communication may be incomplete

             (c) Communication may be highly detailed

                  (i) Difficulty filtering what is or is not significant

c) Social Understanding and Ability

    i) May display significant challenges in social interaction and understanding, including:

       (1) Atypical or absent non-verbal engagement with others

       (2) Reduced, or lack of, interest in interaction with others

       (3) Challenges with and difficulty understanding social rules or expectations

   ii) Information to gather

       (1) Social functioning & understanding

            (a) In general

            (b) With unfamiliar people

       (2) Topics or interests the child tends to focus on

            (a) Responses to topic shift

       (3) Aspects of interaction to be aware of

   iii) During the interview

       (1) Adjust expectations regarding assessment of child's engagement

       (2) Be mindful of potential misunderstanding or misinterpretation

d) Sensory

     i) May experience challenges in processing sensory information

     ii) May perceive sensory information in unexpected ways

     iii) May be over-sensitive to sensory information

         (1) Apparently mild stimuli may be experienced as painful

     iv) Could result in responses such as

         (1) Challenges in focus and attention

         (2) Anxiety or distress that may lead to acting out or other behav1ors

    v) May under-register sensory 1nput

        (1) Could result in limited response to seemingly significant stimuli

        (2) Could lead to self-stimulatory behaviors, such as hand tapping or twirling

   vi) Information to gather

        (1) Sensitivities to sensory stimuli

             (a) Multiple sources

             (b) Over- or under-response

        (2) How child IS impacted

        (3) Techniques utilized to modulate

    vii) During the interview

        (1) Modify the environment prior to the interview

             (a) Adjustments may also be necessary during the interview

        (2) Consider sources of sensory input

             (a) Visual

             (b) Auditory /sound

             (c) Scent

             (d) Tactile

             (e) Movement

             (f) Taste

e) Attention and Focus

     i) May not attend to things pointed out to them by another person

     ii) May have difficulty maintaining focus

     iii) May become focused on minute parts of an object

     iv) Information to gather

          (1) Sources of distraction or of hyper focus

          (2) Strategies effective for obtaining child's attention or shifting his or her focus

               (a) Methods that are ineffective

     v) During the interview

         (1) Prior to the interview, remove or otherwise adjust for sources of potential


         (2) Utilize forms of redirection identified as effective

              (a) Child may be more able to respond if redirected through something familial

f) Behavior

    i) Engaging in "repetitive, restricted, or stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, or activities" (APA, 2000). May 


       (1) Repetitive movements

       (2) Fixation on particular items or top1cs

       (3) Adhering to specific routines or rituals

    ii) Information to gather

        (1) Particular patterns of behavior or rituals

             (a) Response to interruption

        (2) Aggressive I concerning behaviors

             (a) Toward self or others

             (b) Triggers

    iii) During the Interview

        (1) Adjust/allow for child's behaviors as possible

        (2) Child First

             (a) Balance needs of the interview process with needs of the child

        (3) Assess for safety

g) Routine

     i) Often require a high level of routine and structure

     ii) Changes or disruptions in routines may have impacts on the child that could include severe distress and extreme behaviors

    iii) When there is a change in routine, the child will likely requ1re time to prepare

    iv) Information to gather

         (1) Child's particular routines, structures. or schedules

              (a) Interference due to Forensic Interview

              (b) Scheduling the interview with the least impact upon the child's typical routine may be necessary

                   (i) Disruption in routine may seem inconsequential

                   (ii) Could lead to significant distress for a child with ASD

               (c) Rely on individuals who know the child

          (2) Response to transitions

               (a) Strategies to ease transitions

          (3) Adaptability to new or unfamiliar situations

               (a) Strategies

               (b) Adapting to Forensic Interview

                    (i) May need more time or increased exposure in order to become comfortable in a new setting

                   (ii) May require modifications in practice to assist the child in acclimating to the setting prior to the forensic 


                         1. Scheduling a brief visit to the interview setting

                         2. Providing photographs of the space

          (4) How long able to engage in activity or task

          (5) Breaks

              (a) Particular schedule or routine

              (b) Activities, items utilized on breaks

   v) During the interview

        (1) Allow the interview to fit within the child's routine

             (a) May require adjustments, modifications, flexibility

             (b) Important to respect and respond to needs

h) Responses to Stress

     i) Children with ASD may display distinct responses to various types of stress

     ii) May have particular strategies or techniques utilized to help calm

     iii) Information to gather

          (1) Particular triggers of agitation or distress

          (2) Indicators

          (3) Responses

          (4) Strategies that may help calm the child

     iv) During the interview

          (1) Be aware of indicators; avoid pushing at child's limits

          (2) Provide access to calming techniques effective for this child

               (a) Used by the interviewer, within the interview

               (b) Used outside of the interview

i) Fine- and Gross-Motor Skills

    i) May have challenges in the areas of fine- or gross-motor skills

    ii) May lead to fatigue or frustration for the child

    iii) Information to gather

         (1) Challenges with fine- or gross-motor tasks

         (2) Adaptations to assist participation

    iv) During the interview

         (1) Consider modifications (of environment, tasks) to meet specific needs

         (2) Prior to the interview, reduce activities that may increase fatigue or stress

j) Safety

    i) May not have a typical sense of fear or understanding of danger to prevent from

       engaging in unsafe behavior

    ii) Under-sensitivity to sensory information may lead to increased safety concerns

    iii) Information to gather

         (1) Possible safety concerns to be aware of and prepare for

         (2) Precautions or strategies typically employed to prevent or address

    iv) During the interview

         (1) Assess ability to maintain safety of the child within the interview setting

              (a) Remove potential safety hazards

              (b) Modifications as necessary, appropriate

         (2) Interview cannot occur/continue if unable to maintain safety for the child and for others

k) Medication

     i) Some children may take medications to address specific characteristics related to

        ASD, such as hyperactivity or aggression

     ii) Information to gather

         (1) Child's medications, purpose

         (2) Possible impact upon the child's participation due to medication, timing

I) Co-occurring Disorders or Concerns

    i) Children with ASD may be impacted by additional disorders or other concerns

    ii) Information to gather

        (1) Mental health diagnoses, impact upon child

        (2) Physical health concerns

        (3) Other needs that may be present

             (a) Child's awareness, independence in alerting others & caring for needs

m) Strengths

      i) Due to variation in presentation of ASD, child may display wide range in ability

         (1) Important to consider not only what may bring challenges or limitations to child'sparticipation, but also to 

              consider the strengths of the individual child

     ii) Information to gather

         (1) Strengths of the child

              (a) What may be utilized to enhance child's participation

         (2) Particular topics, interests, or skills

              (a) Utilize for building rapport

    iii) During the interview

         (1) Utilize strengths, skills, or interests to assist with:

              (a) Building rapport

              (b) Reducing barriers

              (c) Minimizing challenges

                   (i) Asperger's Disorder: talking about areas of interest; modulated some 

                        deficits in areas such as sensory processing, communication, and social interaction



Stauffer, J. (2011).  Preparing to Interview an Individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Possible Information to Gather. CornerHouse.