|Posted by [email protected] on January 7, 2017 at 10:35 PM||comments (0)|
As I watched the video if the young man with developmental disabilities tied, gagged and being assaulted I cried. I cried for several reasons. I cried because it is hard to watch. I cried because it isn’t fair. To be honest one of the main reasons I cried so hard is I know that could have been my son.
When someone asks me what I am afraid of my answer is different from most people I know. What I am truly afraid of is what happened in that video, or worse happening to my son. As I have taught first responders throughout the country I have always tried to show them (police and firefighters) what it is like in my world as a parent of a child with special needs. I am honest. I am brutally honest, but it needs to be said. My biggest fear, my biggest worry is what happens to my son if I or my wife is not there to protect him.
What happens when I die? What happens when my wife and I can’t care for him anymore? This is the question in the minds of every special needs parent all the time. The truth is we don’t talk about it. It’s there trust me. It hits us at different times and different places. Sometimes it hits out of the blue. I hate that feeling, that pressure which is always there, of who is going to continue to protect and fight for my son when my wife and I are gone.
This is where you come in. I am calling for a call to action of all my fellow sheep dogs! We need your help. Watching that video has shown and I assume many in the special needs community how vulnerable our kids and loved ones truly are. You can help! Use this horrible incident to focus your departments or agencies on reaching out to your special needs communities. Show them; show us that you will help protect our children. Show them that you care about our kids as much as the next kid. I don’t expect you to raise my son when I am gone, but just do your part to protect him.
I am always re-assured when I see the positive stories of society taking care of a person with special needs. I couldn’t have been more proud when I saw on the local news the story of two LAPD Officers. Officers Hodgen and Prentice are my heroes. These two officers were dispatched to a death call and once they arrived they notice an adult female with developmental disabilities who was the daughter of the deceased. Looking beyond they couldn’t just walk away. The realized she relied on her mother for her daily necessities. They got involved. They were not afraid. They didn’t find something “more important to do”. They not only physically helped take care of this woman, but they set up a Go Find Me account and have since tried to help care for this woman. It is my hope when I die it is these two officers or someone with their same character who responds to my death call and sees my son.
Before my son was diagnosed 12 years ago I didn’t know anything about the special needs community. I knew I wanted to protect them. I knew I felt bad for them. I knew it would be easy for me to offend them. I also knew I didn’t understand any of it. I wasn’t going to tell anyone any part of that.
When I watch that video of that young man frightened. I see my son in that corner with nobody to defend him. I see a fact that we as special needs parents have known is a reality for far too long. Our special needs communities need to have relationships and communication with our public safety agencies. Our public safety agencies need to have a relationship with our special needs communities.
We need to bridge that gap!
For the public safety agencies I ask are you doing all that can be done to bridge this gap? Have you provided credible and realistic training for your officers? If you haven’t let this tragedy spring board those talks.
For the parents, have you done your part? Reach out to local public safety and help them bridge the gap.
I am confident that those who committed this horrible act will be held accountable. I also know regardless of who is President, the color of his skin, his parent’s beliefs, his parent’s income, where he lives and all that, my son needs to be protected.
My son needs a sheep dog!
|Posted by [email protected] on December 1, 2016 at 2:20 AM||comments (0)|
I can write this article and fill it with stats, facts and trends on why there is a need for autism training within the public safety world. The truth is however I have found my greatest success in teaching police officers for the last fifteen years is to just be honest and blunt. Police officers are expected to know everything and how to handle every situation. If they fail, their failure is blasted on social media, the news and throughout society. When I ask you how much training you or your department have had in dealing with persons with autism, the blunt and honest answer is probably little or likely none.
Autism is not mental illness. It is more than a thirty minute (or less) section in a CIT or mental illness training. Autism is something I have lived with for the last fourteen years, and yet I still don’t know everything. Even with being considered one of the “experts” in the field, there is much I do not know.
So how can we then expect our police officers to know how to handle calls involving persons with autism with little to no training when even the “experts” find ways they can approve? The answer is simple we need more training.
Autism is still the fastest growing developmental disability in the world. Most law enforcement agencies have had or routinely have calls for service involving persons with autism. Currently 1 in 68 children have autism in the United States. Are we prepared for when those children become adults? Are we prepared to provide public safety services to that population?
I am proud of my profession when I can say “most” of the calls involving persons with autism are handled without incident. Has this become our standard? Why can’t we learn how to handle all of them better? Why can’t we learn what makes a person with autism do the things they do? Why can’t we learn about the spectrum, de-escalation, stemming, meltdowns and all other things that are common in the world of autism? It is well known that the more connected you are to a specific community, generally the better the police services will be within that community. This is true with the special needs community as well.
So with all that being said why don't we offer more training on autism? I have asked that question and I have heard several answers. I have heard, “Well something more pressing always comes up.” or the ever popular, “We have our autism situation under control.” Ask that to the countless police officers who have found themselves in use of force incidents that learned after the fact that the person they were dealing had a developmental disability. What about the police officer who responds to an elopement call involving a person with autism only to have it end with the death of a person they were sworn to protect? What about the police officer who responds to the call tomorrow and has no “real training”? What about the officer who responds but they don’t have 14 years’ experience and are not a parent of special needs child?
Sure they can do it the way we always do it. They can “wing it” and do the minimal needed with minimal training. Or we can make a stand and value our special needs population and our autism community and provide them the attention, training and respect they deserve as members of the communities we are sworn to protect.
When we have tragedies we often react to those situations search for training on how to prevent these tragedies from happening again. I was once told, “When you are reacting to a disaster it is too late to prepare.” I find that very fitting. With the recent tragedies of the elopement deaths of several children, the federal government has been working to enact federal requirements for the dealing and documenting of persons with autism in our communities by police. Should it really take that to make it happen?
I am positive that most police officers want to help and protect our vulnerable communities. I also know, from my own experience, if you lack knowledge about those communities it is difficult to properly provide law enforcement services to them. Cops don’t like to appear that we don’t know things. If you or your agency hasn’t had adequate in depth professional autism training, I would ask you to evaluate the reason why. More so are you going to do something about it?
|Posted by [email protected] on November 12, 2016 at 9:30 PM||comments (1)|
Wow! Here I sit on a Saturday evening after publishing this website and creating a FB page for this venture. I didn't expect it. I can tell you after having a son with autism for 14 years and being a cop that there is still a huge gap between both worlds. I have aimed to be that bridge. I intend for this blog to be a source of information. I dont know what it will look like. I can't honestly tell you I know what the future holds. I know that I blessed to be married to the best mom, wife and friend in the world. I know I have three of the best kids anyone can ask for. I know I want to make them proud and make the world a safer place for not only my special needs child, but every special needs person.