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Autism and Law Enforcement -Part 2

This week I will continue the discussion about how individuals with autism can/should interact with law enforcement as well as important improving of the training of a law enforcement representative so that a law enforcement representative can recognize what autism looks like.

This week I will discuss this issue when it comes to my own child.

Do I worry about my own child?

Of course I do.

My child usually has a sweet disposition and he has always enjoyed talking to police officers and fire department personnel. Fire trucks and police cars have been obsessions for him in the past. So, in his brief experiences, the people who drive those really cool vehicles are the good guys, because they drive those really cool vehicles.

What do we tell our child?

We tell them that all law enforcement personnel, as well all adults, should be treated with respect. That’s what we try to teach our child.

To treat everyone with respect.

What do I think about a possible law enforcement confrontation with my child?

I worry about when my child is older and how he will handle that type of situation.

Again, treat that person with respect is number one on the list.

Second, I think my son should try to remember that the individual in front of him probably does not know he has autism. That individual may not necessarily know what it means to have autism.

Third, perhaps it’s a good idea to inform that individual that you have autism. “I have autism and that means I feel stress a bit differently than other individuals. It’s harder on my body when I’m in unfamiliar situations.”

Fourth, do as you are instructed.

For example, a police officer may be instructing you that he/she thinks you did something—whatever that “something” is. You may not want to immediately try to convince the officer that you did not do whatever it was, especially if your body becomes immediately stressed.

I know my son reacts quickly when he’s accused of something that he did not do. He gets defensive and wants to argue.

Don’t argue. Be patient, especially when it comes to a law enforcement representative. Do what they are telling you to do. If they tell you to lie on the ground, for example, do it.

Everything will be sorted out later.

Law enforcement personnel spend their days dealing with a lot of stress. They have to deal with all types of different individuals. They want to react in the right way, but they also want to be safe. For them, for people around the situation, and for you.

I tell my child that if something happens, try to remain calm, and do as instructed. You’ll be better off.

What about law enforcement?

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I know that law enforcement training regarding how to recognize an individual with an ASD is ongoing. I don’t, however, believe it’s nearly as commonplace as it needs to be.

Training and classes need to continue and be more commonplace.

There are thousands upon thousands of kids growing up right now that have an ASD. They will be young adults very soon. Add that number to the number of adults currently with an ASD.

Law enforcement needs crucial information and training about ASDs and they need it now.

What is another reason this is important?

Because members of law enforcement have families, too.

Last year, I spent a four hour ride-along with a member of our local sheriff’s department. Turned out, we spent most of our time together talking about our sons, who are both on the autism spectrum!

Why do I suggest?

Talk to your child about how to approach a law enforcement representative—especially if he/she is a teenager or older and they are by themselves. Take them through some hypothetical steps, including a script that they can use to inform the law enforcement representative about ASD.

Assume that they do not know about ASD, but do not try to argue with them. Do as instructed, and sort it all out later, when calmer heads prevail.

In the end, hopefully, it will all work out okay.

More on Kimberly Kaplan:
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