Autism and the Police

Autism and The Police

Please note: In this blog post, I want to discuss the interaction between an individual with autism and the police. I am aware of the treatment of black people by the police. I believe in awareness and education. With that in mind, I am in favor of some kind of restructure/retraining/education/defunding of the police in terms of how they treat black people. I am tired of hearing about another non-violent encounter between the police and a black person that ends with the black person dead.

With that in mind, please allow me to focus this blog post on an issue that is closer to my heart, autism. This is an important tangent that relates to how members of the police treat individuals, in this case individuals with autism.  

Therefore, in this post, I will discuss an individual on the autism spectrum and the police.

What does it look like when an individual with autism interacts with police?

I have been pulled over by the police. I have been given speeding tickets.

Each time I’ve been pulled over, I get nervous.

Why? Because I know I’m guilty and I know I’m about to get a speeding ticket.

That’s why I’m nervous. I got caught. It’s going to cost me money and I’m going to have to take the class (It’s not like I’ve had that many tickets. I’ve always been eligible for the class!)

What’s my point?

Typical people get nervous being pulled over by the police.

If an individual has autism, I can only guess that the anxiety is worse.

What should an individual with autism do in case of an interaction with the police?

This does not apply to driving. My son rides his Razor scooter all over our community.

For whatever reason, he could be stopped by the police.

What do we tell him?

I recently discussed this issue with my son.

If you’re driving and you get pulled over by the police, or if you’re on your Razor and an officer wants you to stop to talk to you, what do you do?

Tell the police you have autism

My son doesn’t like revealing his autism to others. He prefers to keep it private.

That’s fine.

However, when we talked, I suggested he tell the police about his autism.

I said that the police officer might appreciate the information. Hopefully, that officer has some education and/or experience that allows him/her to understand this type of individual.

If the officer had that information, they might understand if that person with autism waves their hands or smiles inappropriately. The officer should understand that the individual is nervous. After that, with the information of autism, that should assist the encounter.

It’s my belief that many police officers have received or are in the process of receiving some education on the autism.

So, give them the information that you have autism.

My son agreed with me.

Then what?

Do as instructed.

Keep your hands visible.

Do not reach for things (your drivers license, your ID, your phone, your registration) without getting permission from the officer.

If the officer asks you to get out of the car, do it.

If the officer asks you to put your Razor scooter down and put your hands on his vehicle, do it.

Anything type of accusation will be straighten out later.

Do what the officer tells you to do.

It may be hard

When I’ve been pulled over, I knew I was guilty. Yes, I tried to not get that speeding ticket. But, I deep down I knew I deserved it. I was speeding.

However, my husband had an encounter where he was pulled over and told to get out of his small, beat-up car. He was handcuffed and had to lie face down on the pavement.

Why? The police had a report that a house had had a robbery. My husband had a TV in his crappy car. He was moving it for a friend.

He was innocent.

However, in the moment, he had to comply and be patient and tolerate how to police handled the situation, until everything was straightened out.

He wasn’t guilty, but he had to do as instructed.

An example for my son

This was an example for my son. The police usually have a reason for pulling you over or stopping you. If that happens, give them the autism information and talk to them. You know you didn’t do anything wrong. It can be just a conversation.

Try to be calm, even though that may be hard.

Talk and listen and do as instructed.

Be patient.

Don’t escalate.

Ask permission to go into your pockets or wherever.

If they say no, don’t do it.

Things will work out

The police want all encounters to go smoothly. They don’t want things to escalate.

Nor do we.

I believe for individuals with autism, it’s very important to give the police that information.

In conclusion, I hope that my son doesn’t have to go through a situation with the police, but we have to prepare him. We have to talk to him, and maybe even act out a scenario.

Our kids are in a special category here where none of us want things to go bad.

We want everyone to be safe.

Here is a great article about autism and law enforcement:

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