Article Posted: Dec 10, 2019 / 08:10 PM EST / Updated: Dec 11, 2019 / 08:24 AM EST
BELMONT COUNTY, Ohio (WTRF) – A person who won’t look you in the eye, who might be unsteady on their feet, agitated or pacing–police often tend to take these as signs of guilt, or at least of being under the influence.
In Belmont County, Sheriff Dave Lucas hosted a seminar for ‘First Responders’ about how to recognize Autism Spectrum Disorder and how to interact with people who have it.
< My Thoughts > “A person who won’t look you in the eye, who might be unsteady on their feet…”
Green (2013), in her review of various articles, discovered that much of the literature brings up the ‘invisibility of autism’. Families seem know long-term stress and anxiety because of experiencing societies’ expectations of the person with autism, the ‘invisible disability’.
People with autism are seven times more likely to interact with police. Their typical behaviors are easily mistaken for criminal conduct. “They may be using their hands, wringing their hands, and it may look like someone who’s in crisis in some way,” said Chief Deputy Jon Snowden of the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department. “They don’t make a lot of eye contact,” explained Carrie Gutowski, lawyer and ASD class trainer. “They have difficulty following directions. They may give unusual answers to questions.”
< My Thoughts > “Their typical behaviors are easily mistaken for criminal conduct.”
Cea (2014) says that an example of a criminal acts stemming from an obsession/special interest, for instance, was a person who stole computers in order to disassemble them. Thus fueling his passion for seeing what was inside the device.
Other factors which may predispose those with ASD to seemingly criminal behaviors would be aggressive behavior, poor social understanding, stress or anxiety from disruption of routines or perceived threatening events.
They are also 160 times more like to die of drowning. “Children with autism are very attracted to water,” said Gutowski. “We don’t know exactly why that is but we think they may like the sensory experience of how it feels when they touch it, how the light glistens off it of it.”
< My Thoughts > “Children with autism are very attracted to water…”
Hilton (2017) tells – Shortly after noon on October 4, 2013, a 14-year-old African American 8th grade student named Avonte Oquendo” ran out of the side door of his school and into the community. Identified as severely autistic and nonverbal, Avonte had a “strong sensory affinity for trains, cars, and water systems.”
Avonte’s disappearance and the discovery of his remains several months later… “The medical examiner concluded that he had most likely fallen from an embankment into the East river and drowned.” This tragedy “prompted local officials and politicians to call for review of educational policies and school-security protocols for children with disabilities…”
They said children with autism are escape artists. They like to go off by themselves and hide in small places.
In one case, they said a child was found hiding in the bottom drawer of the family’s kitchen stove. “Small places are sort of like a hug, right?” said Gutowski. “Like it helps them stay calm. And so they might go and climb into a nice warm car where they can get away from all the noise around them.”
< My Thoughts > “They like to go off by themselves…”
Until recently, Hilton (2017) continues, the voices of autistic people have been absent from the conversation about why wandering is such an issue with this population. Higashida (2013), Naoki, a 13 year-old-boy with nonverbal autism, through facilitated communication, answered questions concerning his elopement activity.
Question: Why did you wander off?
Answer: My body was lured there by ‘something’ outside. As I was walking farther from home, I didn’t feel any fear or anxiety. I had to keep walking on and on. Turning back was not permitted, because roads never come to an end. Roads speak to us people with autism, and invite us onward. Until someone brings us back home, we don’t know what we’ve done and then we’re as shocked as anyone.
Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas says they get more calls from schools lately, about students with autism. “If they’re overloaded (sensory overload), they might start acting out,” said Sheriff Lucas. “And if someone doesn’t know how to properly deal with it, we could cause or create more of a problem.”
< My Thoughts > “…get more calls from schools lately…”
Walker (2016) claims that students as young as 16 are issued summonses for non-criminal offenses, said Advocates for Children, an educational activist group. Last year, Director of the School Justice project for AFC, Dawn Yuster recalled that a 9-year-old student with disabilities was held by the NYPD in Velcro handcuffs. “It was devastating to the family to see their child in this situation,” she said. “It traumatizes the child for life.”
Yuster advises schools to provide crisis de-escalation training to public safety officers and faculty. Claiming there is a lifetime of “damage” to society when students acquire a record.
They say many people with autism can drive. But when pulled over in traffic, they may be slow to answer, unsteady or slurring their words. Officers learned that if they don’t smell alcohol, it’s OK to asks directly, “Do you have autism?”
“Absolutely,” said Chief Deputy Scowden, “it’s fine for the officer to ask people if they are autistic. It can save a lot of misunderstanding. ”
< My Thoughts > “…it’s OK to ask directly, “Do you have autism?”
In Cariello & Capell (2015), Carrie Cariello remembers talking about having autism with her son –
Jack, your autism is great. It is not something to be embarrassed about or that you should want to change about yourself. I love it. I mean, we all love it. It’s so interesting the way you see the world. I can’t wait to know more about it from you. I love you no matter what, I hope you know that.
It was Sunday morning in late September – the day after my birthday. I was fuzzily turning pancakes on the griddle while Jack perched at the counter flicking the top to the syrup open and closed and open and closed.
I was just about to tell him to stop doing that, it’s gross to put your hands all over the lid when he asked, “Why was I born with autism?”
“Well Jack, it’s a part of you, just like your eyes are blue and you have big feet.”
“Do all people with blue eyes have it?”
“No, it’s not really about your eyes. It’s like how you learn things.”
And then, in rapid fire, these questions –
“Do grown-ups have it?”
“Who else has it?”
“Where did I get it?”
How do I tell my nine-year-old that I love his autism but I also hate it and it’s beautiful but sometimes it’s so very, very ugly?
How do I tell him there are days I literally want to pull my hair out by the handfuls or, better yet, light my eyelashes on fire and run into the street screaming…
The trainers told ‘First Responders’ that their goal is to get them on their way to a call… reminding themselves that this may indeed be a criminal, but it may just be a person with autism.”
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REFERENCES used here:
Cariello, C. & Capell, J. (2015). Someone I’m With Has Autism; eBook 2015 Edition.
Cea, C. (2014). Autism & the Criminal Defendant; John’s Law Review; Summer, V88:2; p495-529.
Green, L. (2013). The Well-Being of Siblings of Individuals with Autism; ISRN Neurology; Vol 2013; Art. 417194.
Higaskida, N. (2013) The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen Year Old; eBooks Edition.
Hilton, L. (2017). Avonte's Law: Autism, Wandering & the Racial Surveillance of Neurological Difference; African American Review, V50:2, p221-235.
Walker, T. (2016). School safety data say Black students face more arrests, summonses than white peers; New York Amsterdam News (Education Section); Sept./Oct.:39.