It’s horrifying to think that your child, your sweet loving child with autism, could be misread or misunderstood by law enforcement and taken into police custody. Believe me, it happens at an alarming rate. Children with autism are seven times more likely to have a brush with the law. It appears to me that autism is the new ‘police profiling’ and it is targeting OUR children! Our children are not terrorists, thugs, criminals, or the next ‘school shooter’ in the making.
Law enforcement officers need to be educated about how to identify and handle an encounter with a child with autism.
Autism Recognition and Response (Law Enforcement)
A useful methodology of dealing with a person who has autism can be outlined in a few short points using the acronym AUTISM (Debbaudt and Rothman 2001):
Approach the person in a quiet, non-threatening manner. Persons with autism may be hypersensitive to stimuli. Avoid quick motions and gestures that could be, even remotely, seen as threatening.
Understand that touching the person with autism may cause the protective ‘fight or flight’ reaction. Never touch the shoulders or near the face. Their hypersensitivity includes being touched and even extends to invasions of their personal space.
Talk to the person in a moderated and calm voice. you may have to repeat your directions or questions several times. Be patient and wait for answers that may be delayed. Raising your voice will not help and may be viewed as threatening.
Instructions should be simple and direct, avoiding slang. A person with autism will take you literally. ‘Do you think that’s cool?’ ‘What do you have up your sleeve?’ ‘Are you pulling my leg?’ or ‘Up against the wall!’ are examples of phrases that probably will cause confusion and may cause an inappropriate response. Directions should be specific, such as ‘Stand up’ or ‘Go to the car, now’, and this will reduce the chance of confusion.
Seek all indicators to evaluate the situation as it is unfolding and be willing to adjust your actions accordingly. Visually evaluate for injuries because persons with autism can have an extremely high threshold for pain or be unable to ask for help.
Maintain a safe distance until any inappropriate behaviors lessen but remain alert to the possibility of outburst or impulsive acts. Be able to retreat, if necessary to de-escalate the situation until you can determine what is going on at the scene.
(excerpt from Autism, Advocates, and Law Enforcement Professionals: Recognizing and Reducing Risk Situations for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Dennis Debbaudt)
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I was reading a mother’s blog the other day and ran across a blog post about not spearing poop! Unfortunately, this does happen and it is very common. The article was correct in stating that not many talk about it. Why? Probably because it is gross. The mother in the blog post http://autismmomsgratitudelist.blogspot.com/2013/01/poop-smearing-and-coprophagia.html talked about this book, and how successful this book has been for helping her child. The blog is called Autism Mom’s Gratitude List. I am going to have to spend more time reading her blog. Looks like a lot of excellent content.
A picture is worth 1,000 words… When you look into my child’s eyes, you can see the difference.
For children with autism, visual aids are critical to their learning process and retention of that learned material. After all, what is a memory? You recall events and details with a picture from your mind. In a young brain with a neurological disorder, pictures are key to helping strengthen these fragile neurons. If you have ever heard of people with brain injuries who have therapy to literally re-wire their brain because the normal paths are not functioning properly, you will better understand this process.
Whether you know it or not, we all use visual aids every day. Visual aids help us to retain information, respond appropriately and follow the rules. Take for instance, the STOP sign. Now immediately you get a visual in your brain for what it looks like and you immediately know what it means.
Now imagine that the STOP sign changed its shape and color. How would you respond? Would you even notice it? Would you notice it in time to stop?
Changing the shape and color of the STOP sign would have disasterous effects. Our brains have been trained to recognize this sign in an instant. Visual aids work much the same way for children with autism or other developmental delays. The visual cue can have a profound impact on learning and retention of learned material.
Take a look at just some of the visual aids that can be created for your students!
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