The police is there for the general public to protect and serve, to restore peace and safe environment. So how can these tragic events can take place? Is it only police negligence, or is there a deeper problem that needs to be solved immediately?
Individuals with autism qualifies for a description of “hidden disabilities”, meaning they usually don’t have any physical appearance that would distinguish them from their typical peers. This makes their interaction with the police somewhat more complicated than it would otherwise with visible signs of special needs. These individuals most often non-verbal, or have very limited vocabulary which makes conversations very limited with people they are familiar with, and almost entirely impossible with strangers like police in a hostile situation. Lack of communication and understanding put both parties in a dangerous situation. If the police sees someone not following directions, it will be treated as suspicious. Besides of communication problems, most autistic individuals have problems being touched, or being too close to another person. They usually react in a negative way that can be interpreted by police as hostile, and treated as such. I honestly can not blame the police entirely for that, since way to many police officers had been seriously injured and even killed by perpetrators. My understanding they have the right to defend themselves against criminals. I am not talking about autistic individuals this case. This comment by any means does not undermined the pain and suffering of the families with autistic individuals whose children had been killed by police. I feel deep sorrow for their loss, and I wish it would never ever happen again. I am simply trying to see what could the solution be, so these tragic events will not occur anymore.
Many claims that autistic people should just stay home with supervision. This is an inconsiderate and unfair solution, which can result more isolation, less social skills, and enhanced aggression in many cases. All of us parents trying to teach children to function better in their environment, so locking them into the house or a group home would certainly defeat our effort to raise a more independent individual.
In some cases teaching the person their identity and respect of authorities is an option. In some cases it isn’t. Some parents get a special card to be handed to people by their non-verbal child, so they can give all necessary information to the first responders. My problem with this, (and I spoke with a friend who is a police officer in CA to confirm my concern) in a hostile situation the person may not remember to give out a card, or if they do attempt to take a card out of their pocket might result in a suspicion of them having a weapon in their pocket. Honestly this is not a best solution in my book. Usually when someone not following verbal commend that was given by police followed by suspicious movements, (like reaching into pocket, purse, backpack and such) will result a more severe reaction by police.
So what is the solution? As always more education. Many states adopted certain procedure to better deal with individuals with “hidden disabilities”. There is always room for us to improve, but steps are being made to ensure everyone’s safety, and a proper treatment of special needs individuals.
Furthermore, the general public needs to be educated more about autism too, so one can not jump into conclusion and create more chaos with their uneducated opinions, and views. Educating people can result in more understanding, and more positive interaction with special need individuals. Effective education can result in prevention of senseless deaths.
Being autistic should never be a death sentence to anyone.
Being autistic will never be an excuse to commit a crime, but educating the police and general public is a must, to avoid tragedy in a future.