As someone who has cared for individuals affected by developmental disabilities, my biggest fear has never been “What happens if my kid has a melt down?!” I am highly trained and comfortable handling that. My biggest fear has always been “What happens if my kid has a melt down in public and people don’t know he has a disability and assume the worst?”
As we have too often seen, sometimes police culture can involve reacting first, ask questions later. Now, while that has had devastating affects for multiple communities, we don’t really hear about when it happens to the special needs community. On top of that, more important than perhaps being informed about it, is how do we fix it? Can special training do it? More education?
As the number of people affected by developmental disability continues to grow, encounters with police will obviously grow as well. Now, Police have a ridiculously hard job. We ask them to run towards danger vs away from it. That carries inherently heightened senses of alarm. What can we do to help a police officer or other first responders to ID someone with Autism? Or better yet, as Steve puts it in his amazing op-ed, how do we teach them to understand?
I will write a commentary on this piece soon, but first, I want everyone to read this scary, prudent and necessary piece from one of the people at the forefront at helping everyone understand the complexities of neuro-diversity (His book is a must read!)
Any police officers who read this (and anyone else), I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts. Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the link to the article in the times. Be back soon!