An autistic teenager from the Chicago area has done something almost impossible. Read more.
What follows is an interview with Jason Katims, writer and executive producer of the NBC hit series “Parenthood.” “Parenthood“ airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
This guest is post is by Phillip Hain, Executive Director, Autism Speaks Los Angeles Chapter.
Only upon reading further – about ¾ through the story – did I notice the statement that the man had autism and learning disabilities. My heart instantly sank. I felt horrible about my preconceived thoughts, and now worse because of the added circumstance. Reading the subsequent details doesn’t offer much else. The officers say they heard a noise and the victim was acting suspiciously. He quickly approached them and they claim he appeared to “pull something from his waistband,” according to a spokesperson for the police department.
This occurred just past midnight so it was dark. I don’t think we’ll ever know the real facts. Is it fair to second-guess the officers who had to make a decision in one instant? But let’s pause for a moment and think – if the officers knew just a little bit more about autism, it’s possible the outcome may have been different.
Autism Speaks developed the Autism Safety Project specifically for this purpose. It provides First Responders with information and guidelines for communicating with individuals with autism spectrum disorder in emergency situations. In addition, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Autism Society of America has developed a training program especially for the Los Angeles Police Department and implemented it over the last year, going around to their various stations to teach officers how to recognize autism.
I have a 17-year-old son with autism. He is high functioning, somewhat independent, and likes walking around town. But that doesn’t shield him from the possibility of something going wrong in a moment. I shudder to think that he could have ended being the name in the paper.
The resources are there – but they need to be implemented to be effective. We can only hope that increased training, awareness and knowledge of police, firefighters and all emergency personnel prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.
This is a guest post by Alycia Halladay, Ph.D. and Leanne Chukoskie, Ph.D. Dr. Halladay is Autism Speaks’ Director, Research for Enivronmental Services. Leanne earned her Ph.D. at NYU’s Center for Neural Science studying the neural mechanisms that mediate vision during eye movements. During her postdoctoral training at the Salk Institute she studied search behavior in both humans and animals. A family connection as well as the curious manner in which people with autism tend to scan a visual scene led her to work for Autism Speaks as the Assistant Director of Science Communication and Special Projects. Leanne also continues her research as a Project Scientist at UCSD.