Arnaundville Police Department
The Chief's Blog
The Chief's Blog
|Posted on April 3, 2014 at 11:22 AM|
As we approach Election Day, I have to now put it in the hands of the voters and God. I was reminded today that if it is meant to be, God will allow it to happen. So, today’s blog is not about elections, campaigns or politics.
Today I have turned over my blog to Ginger, as we honor and recognize this month as Autism Awareness Month. In New Orleans, she was the Executive Director of a program for the deaf and children with communicative disorders. Her connection to children with Autism, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) runs deep. Our daughter, Emily teaches a self-contained special education class with several autistic children.
Today, 1 out of 68 children will be born with ASD. These numbers are astounding. In a decade this number has gone from 1 in 250, to just five years ago 1 in 150.
While we can address the educational options, behavioral strategies, and teaching methods for children with ASD, we should also be acutely aware that if these numbers are correct, there is an ever-growing number of young adults and adults entering all aspects of our society with ASD – the workforce, the communities, businesses, etc.
Since Ed’s blog has always integrated law enforcement into its discussion, I thought it appropriate to do the same. I will refer to an Autism Tsunami facing today’s police forces, and just as there is a need for police to be aware of and know about specific ADA laws (Americans With Disabilities Act) and the rights of this specific “class” of citizenry, they need special training when it comes to ASD.
There is a massive increase of young adults with autism; a statistical wave created by what appears to be a perfect storm scenario of concurrent contributing factors, including increased diagnoses, increased incidence of autism, over-taxed and drying up community resources and a maturing front-line demographic of individuals with autism The average age of these autism-boomers at somewhere between 17 and 19 years of age.
Consider this: the Center for Disease Control estimates 1 in 68 births currently are on the autism spectrum and possibly still rising. 3 out of 4 are male. Half are nonverbal or profoundly verbally limited. They are seven times more likely to encounter the police and at least three times more likely to be victims of violent and/or sexual crimes. 4 out of 5 police calls will involve unusual or dangerous, not criminal, behaviors that will often be difficult to manage or interpret. Two out of 5 will be prone to seizures, and a good deal of them will be hypotonic (low-muscle-tone), making them prone to positional asphyxia and musculoskeletal injuries. To top it all off, many of them will appear to be oblivious to pain, while others will shrink, as if in pain (perhaps real pain), to your slightest touch.
Police officers have been trained to use a certain police presence and dialog as intervention options. Body posture, tone of voice, eye contact, and interrogative language serves them well with most contacts. All of these are a form of nonverbal communication. It’s what they rely on initially to get their message across and control a contact. When dealing with subjects with ASD, traditional officer presence may not work. In fact, it may even backfire.
A recent report was issued written by Joel Lashley, who is the father of a son with autism and has more than 20 years experience managing challenging behaviors in the clinical setting. The report was a collaboration with Lashley (Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin), Emily Levine (Executive Director of the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin), Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr. (Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office), Mike Thiel, CPP (Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Director of Security), Edward A. Flynn (Chief of Police Milwaukee Police Department), Dr. George Thompson (President of the Verbal Judo Institute), and scores of national professionals.
Citing information in this report, “Children, youth, and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are as varied in their interests, personalities, character, temperaments, and communication styles as anyone else. It is therefore generally not a good idea to stereotype people with ASD. In reality, no two persons behave exactly alike, but what we know about people with ASD is that they tend to display unusual repetitive behaviors and have difficulty with socialization and communication.”
People with autism and other cognitive or developmental disabilities are less likely to commit a crime than others, but they are more likely than ever before to:
• Live independently without support
• Be out in public alone, without family or care providers
• Work, attend school, use public transportation, and even drive
• Have their access to public places and other freedoms challenged
• Have a medical emergency
• Be harassed and otherwise bullied
• Be a victim of sexual assault and other serious crimes
• Attract the attention of the police
According to the report, people with ASD often won’t understand what others want or need from them — worse, they may not understand that their words or actions can negatively impact others (or themselves). Difficulty with natural social concepts and values is usually what gets them into trouble with others, including the police, the report states.
I would like to conclude by pointing out that more and more police forces are seeking training, and there are several very reliable trainers and resources for them. Here are a few suggestions that are included in some of the training that is available.
Once you've encountered a subject who you think might have a cognitive impairment, here are a few principles to help you out.
The good news is, cops are very good at sizing up these situations. Give them the tools and they’ll know what to do with them! If the pros can provide police, corrections, and healthcare security officers with the necessary tools to recognize and communicate with subjects likely to have ASD, then the situation will have a fighting chance to resolve peacefully.
Categories: The candidate's journal