An update to this post, with podcast here.
I read this morning about Linden Cameron, a 13-year-old autistic boy shot by cops in Utah. After his mom called for help with his meltdown…
And then, Ricardo Munoz, 27 and reportedly autistic, shot by cops in Pennsylvania during a domestic dispute…
I got my personalized medical alert bracelet from Amazon this morning. In the hope…
Cops won’t shoot ME.
Because, running the Facebook page “Missing: While Autistic,” I read news reports about dangerous, even tragic run-ins between “trained” cops & autistic folks… of all levels of ability & disability….
SO… I take this issue extremely personally.
because as a 67-year-old #ActuallyAutistic male, I experience…
- Selective Mutism
- Panic Attacks
- Loud Voice
- Unusual Gait
- Unusual Wardrobe
And, for bonus points…
- I avoid eye contact.
Every cop in AMERICA is trained to look on me with suspicion… as a potential danger to the public… and to treat me accordingly.
In the last few months, I’ve come to fear for my personal safety in ALL public places where I live in South Central Indiana…
As American culture becomes rapidly more polarized, extreme, violent…
- I’ve been stopped without cause for riding a bicycle in my neighborhood by local police. Threatened with arrest. I’m 67… with a mohawk on my head.
- I was physically attacked by customers in a local Dollar Tree… as I waited for them to finish shopping. I wore a mask for Covid-19…
- Stalked and mocked by teenagers in a local Walmart who threatened to cough on me… because I wore a Covid-19 mask. As required.
- Routinely verbally abused on the street by citizens for my speech & dress.
- Received verbal abuse from an abusive, conservative neighbor last night… altho the worst he could think to sputter out was something about me being “gay.” (I’m mildly androgynous in appearance.)
Nor is this solely a product of my fevered, paranoiac imagination.
Previous research has found that an estimated 1 in 5 teens with autism will be stopped and questioned by police before age 21. And people with disabilities, including autism, are five times more likely to be jailed than those without disabilities.
One child development expert laid out the scenarios that can lead to disaster during a police stop.
“A simple traffic stop can have tragic consequences for an individual with ASD [autism spectrum disorder],” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
“If a police officer does not recognize that the driver has autism, then they may misinterpret the failure to make eye contact, answer questions appropriately, or follow simple commands,” he explained.
“If this happens, the police officer may become more wary and feel defied or threatened —- which could then lead to escalation of the situation—with greater agitation or withdrawal by an individual with ASD,” Adesman noted.
“Adolescents and adults with autism may respond inappropriately to questions or commands from a police officer or get agitated, which could then lead to a response from the police officer that could jeopardize the safety of that individual with ASD,” he added.Medical Xpress, “For people with autism, encounters with police can turn dangerous,” May 3, 2019.
So, last week, I ordered a personalized Medical Alert bracelet online. $20… delivered, and engraved:
I realized “high-functioning” autistics are particularly at risk. Because altho we may have meltdowns and other signs of autism disturbing to law enforcement…
We. Don’t. Look. Autistic.
“High-functioning” simply means we test in the “normal or above” range on an IQ test.
For many of us, the truth is closer to….
We do not function. At all. In demanding social situations. Such as…
Fearing jail or death. Or simply being accused of breaking a rule…
Police are more likely to make the wrong call with us autistics. Interpreting normal autistic behavior for “defiance,” “non-compliance,” even drug or alcohol usage…
And we end up arrested. Jailed.
Ya know. Dead…
And you can easily weave your wrist at a first responder for instant attention…
Without fumbling in your pocket… as cops fear you are reaching for a gun.
Without even speaking. Or mak
If you are considering a Medical Alert Bracelet for yourself or a loved one…
- Do NOT choose jewelry. It should be obvious at first glance to any First Responder… medic, cop, fireman, ambulance driver… that it is a Medical Alert Bracelet with a red medical alert cross prominently on the front/top.
- First Responders will check your “watch” wrist first. Although some autistic people may not be able to wear a bracelet… especially nonspeaking children. There are also medallions, necklaces, and pins available if they simply can’t wear a bracelet.
- If you have it engraved, you can include more personal information that will help responders understand YOUR behavior.
- Include “In Case of Emergency” contact & number, allergies, any particular disabilities you may have.
- Ensure that you wear any alert in plain sight. Not under clothing, underwear, etc. Police make decisions within microseconds. Make that life-or-death decision easy for them!
Nor, am I willing to passively stop there…
I bought pepper spray… prominently displayed. So I don’t have to use it. (I considered a gun permit. But my wife and I decided I was a poor match with a gun… history of suicidality….)
And I carry a stout walking stick. Which I exercise with as a mini-quarterstaff for personal defense. (Nobody messed with Friar Tuck and his quarterstaff in Robin Hood’s day. Still deadly.)
My medical alert bracelet came today.
I fear every police officer & cop car I see.
And in 21st Century America… I see them everywhere.
But, today, I fear them… a little less.
More on this important topic here.
A Facebook discussion group, Autism & the Police.
Designing My Home Around Adult Autism: Pt. 2 – 7 Survival Principles – #AutisticAF Out Loud
- Designing My Home Around Adult Autism: Pt. 2 – 7 Survival Principles
- Designing My Home Around Autism: Pt. 1 – Making It Work for Me
- Inside Autism & Eye Contact: How It Feels… How to Deal with the Terror s2e6
- Fanning the Flames: #AutisticJoy in the Classroom – Intersectional Infinity Conference s02e05
- Selective Mutism: I Have No Mouth. But I Must SCREAM… s2e4