Friday, June 7, 2019

People with Autism

Blood is slippery; I found out after he put his hand through the wet bar.

Maybe it was the way he was asked to take his medication that caused the incident.  Perhaps the disruptive nature of out of town guests upset his rhythm.  Something was off and autism wasn't helping us get back on track.  

A Symbol for Autism
A Symbol for Autism
Neither the broken glass, nor the yelling, nor my efforts, nor the slipperiness were helpful.

The cops were helpful.  They showed up in 6 minutes.  They were kind, communicative and reassuring while wrestling, subduing and handcuffing. Officers asked the right questions and got him to the hospital.  

I feared brutality.  They showed professionalism.

I asked, "Where did you train to handle the effects of autism in adults?"

"Are you kidding?  No training...we see this kind of stuff all the time."   "Seeing this stuff..." is on-the-job training when policing a city with millions of people.    

Some cops work in small towns.  Some cops might be as frightened as I was in a basement with my 225 pound loved one.  Some families may fear police encounters by a family member with autism.  

Symptoms of autism include avoidance of eye contact, non-immediate responses to verbal commands, communication delays and fight / flight responses.   An officer may interpret symptoms of autism as untruthfulness, non-compliance and resistance.  Fortunately, I witnessed big city cops get it right.

The Lansing Police Department is also getting it right by partnering with the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation.  By God's grace, I serve as a chaplain and attended the Foundation's "Policing Autism" event.  The mission of the Foundation is "to create a society that better understands autism and enables those with autism to be successful".

Xavier DeGroat (sixth from left) with Michigan Law Enforcement Leaders 
Through Reliant, I attended an officer training on strategies for approaching people with autism:
  • Use a lower tone of voice
  • Lower siren volume and dim lights
  • Give plenty of space
  • Use simple and concrete sentences, avoid jargon / slag
  • Be patient and give time to the person to process and respond
  • Avoid touching unless absolutely necessary.

In a big city basement, I got blood on my clothes.  In our small town, vinegar and water took care of the stains.  God's grace and mercy are taking care of the rest.


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