I feel first responders need to be put through a rigorous, specialized training for handling people on the Autism Spectrum and those with disabilities in general. It’s not just here in Maryland either. I am talking nationwide (not the insurance company Nationwide). I mean police forces and first responders across the country. Every day, somewhere in some form or another, emergency personnel mistreat people on the Autism Spectrum, intentionally or not.
I don’t think blaming helps. People are just misinformed about Autism and aren’t adequately trained. Police, in particular. I have read about numerous cases of “mistaken identity” by police all over the USA…Arizona and Florida in particular. Although in Florida, it wasn’t the person with Autism that was labeled. It was his caretaker. In Florida, the cop saw an Autistic man and his African-American caretaker on the sidewalk. The caretaker had a shiny object. The cop shot the caretaker before assessing the situation. IT WAS A TOY TRUCK! I don’t know if any of you readers are familiar with the term “stimming”. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, allow me to fill you in. “Stimming”, or “self-stimulation” is a repetitive action that Autistic people sometimes do to help them maintain calmness in stressful situations. Some examples of stimming are hand-flapping, scratching yourself in a particular place repeatedly, and, in the case of the boy in Arizona, smelling things.
OK. So here’s what happened in Arizona. An Autistic 14 year old boy named Connor was sniffing a piece of string. A police officer who was apparently unfamiliar with Autism approached Connor and asked him what he was doing. Connor told the cop he was “Stimming”. After the cop asked if Connor had any ID on him, Connor said no and started to walk away. Thinking Connor was on drugs, THE COP TACKLED AND HANDCUFFED CONNOR!
I have witnessed and experienced firsthand how ignorant “Normal” people are toward the Autistic community. I have heard people talking about how people with Autism are “weird” or “should be in an institution”. Yeah, I may be weird, but I embrace my weirdness. I have spent my entire life in and out of hospitals for various reasons. Doctors and nurses, for some reason, seem to treat me differently than they would any other patient. For example, if the doctors and/or nurses in the hospital know I have Autism, they…will…talk…slower… I HATE THAT! I am a human being who just happens to have a diagnosis of Autism. I am really no different than the average person. I can actually understand and comprehend what you are saying. If I don’t get it, I will ask if you can explain it differently.
HOWEVER…Autism is a wide Spectrum. There is no “one-size-fits-all”. People who are lower-functioning, you might have to simplify what you are saying. Me? I can adequately communicate. Hell, I speak about Autism FOR A LIVING! So I think I know a thing or two about how I wanna be treated. I want equality for Autistics and neurotypicals (“Normal” people) alike. Is that too much to ask? Autistic Lives Matter