Audrey Rasmusson 
Member since Aug 20, 2011

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Re: “Bad service

If a parent *never* allows her developmentally disabled child/teen do things on his own like finding his way to the bathroom, using it, and returning to the church pew, then that person is going to be in major trouble once mom and dad are six feet under. I think I am pretty typical as parents of autistic children go. It took many months to train my moderately autistic teenager to find her way around the buildings that we visit regularly, including our church. First, I walked with her, pointing out "landmarks" in our little journey and getting her to answer questions about them. Then, I walked behind her as she led the way, all the while prompting her to describe her intended actions to me. Then, I stayed further behind, even letting her go around corners in hallways by herself. Finally, she was able to do it on her own. So, it's not that we just let our kids wander into harm's way. We use strategies to help them learn to do things that are age-appropriate as independently as possible. Unfortunately, teaching our kids the mechanics of these skills is often much easier than teaching them to appear "normal"-- ie making eye contact, using language reciprocally-- while they do them. An individual with autism may not grasp that someone is talking to him specifically, especially if that person does not use the autistic individual's name. Yes, the security people were right to follow up on what appeared to be dangerous behavior. What I find peculiar is that the officers were able to get close enough to the young man to handcuff him without a fuss, but found his overall demeanor/appearance so unsafe that they (apparently) did not try rephrasing their questions about the object that he was carrying. Alternatively, they might have kept him under low-key surveillance while someone tried to locate a family member in the church sanctuary. For my own daughter, I have taken many steps to help her understand that she should stay calm if approached by police. Unfortunately, she was told some lies about the police when she was very young. When calm, she knows better than to assume that police are dangerous. But, when approached by an officer, she might lose all that calm at the very sight of his/her uniform and become so wrapped up in panic that she could easily strike that officer. This is my fear for her, because even a few days in a juvenile detention facility while I see to legal matters could put her in mental hospital therapy and special education that have been devoted to making sure that she won't end up on the streets or in an institution (as if there were enough spaces available in them, in group homes, etc.) when I am gone from this earth. So, no, parents of disabled children do not put them in harm's way. We do everything in our power to keep them out of harm's way. We cannot, however, do it alone. Police departments around the country have implemented training programs to help officers recognize when they might be dealing with a person with a developmental disability. Mistakes will still be made by the best-trained officers acting in good faith. It is not good faith, however, for a police department to make basic training in disability recognition optional. It is not good faith, and it is very poor policy.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Audrey Rasmusson on 08/20/2011 at 9:07 PM

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