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Sunday, July 24, 2016

The North Miami Incident and Police Training

Autistic people may have poor eye contact or engage in repetitive behaviors, which may strike police officers as suspicious. They also might be slow to react to police commands, which can cause a routine stop to spin out of control. In Greenville, South Carolina, one news account tells of an autistic man named Tario Anderson: “Officers said they saw Anderson walking on the sidewalk and tried him to question him. They said when they put a spotlight on Anderson, he put his hands in his pockets, started walking the other way and eventually started running from them. He was shocked with a Taser and arrested because he didn’t follow the officers’ commands.”Anderson is also African American, which adds another dimension to the story. In the wake of incidents in which African Americans had died at the hands of white police officers, one father wrote of his autistic son: “What if my son pulling back from a cop is seen as an act of aggression? What if a simple repetitive motion is mistaken for an attempt at physical confrontation? If a cop is yelling at my son and he doesn’t respond because he doesn’t understand, what’s stopping the cop from murdering my boy in cold blood?"
In North Miami, a police officer recently shot a behavior therapist who was trying to calm an autistic man on the streetDavid Ovalle reports at The Miami Herald:
The shooting renewed calls from advocates for the mentally ill and autistic for more federal funding to increase training for police, and for technology that can help locate people with disabilities or dementia who wander away from their caretakers.
“This is important and rewarding work, but it is also challenging, even on a good day, and requires incredible patience and dedication,” said Barbara Merrill, the CEO of the American Network of Community Options and Resources, a trade association for workers who help disabled people.
“Aggressive interactions with law enforcement who have not been trained to identify, support and assist individuals with disabilities or autism make a hard job even harder.”
In Miami-Dade, interactions between police officers and mentally ill and developmentally disabled people are frequent. The issue has not gone ignored — training for cops in dealing with both populations has been lauded thanks to the “Crisis Intervention Team” program pushed by Miami-Dade County Judge Steve Leifman.
The program became a greater priority for police departments in the mid-2000s after a string of high-profile shooting deaths involving mentally ill people.
In the past decade, more than 4,700 officers have undergone the crisis intervention training, which includes a class designed to help cops understand the challenges of dealing with autistic people.
The autism course is taught by two local police officers who themselves have autistic children, plus Teresa Becerra, the executive director of the Autism Society of Florida. Her 20-year-old son, Robert, plays a key role in helping officers learn and get accustomed to behaviors of severely autistic people.
“His presence alone has a deep and lasting impact on the officers,” she told the Miami Herald.
Although North Miami police send personnel to the training, it was unclear Thursday whether the officers involved in this week’s shooting had attended. They had not been named.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

More on the North Miami Incident

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between first responders and autistic people.  Police officers need training to respond appropriately.  When they do not, things get out of hand.
It would be hours before 60-year-old Gladys Soto learned the truth: Her son, Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto, had wandered away from his North Miami group home. His behavior aide, a man Rios loved, had been shot by police as he desperately tried to warn them that Rios had autism, was not a danger to anyone, and was wielding a toy truck, not a gun. As Charles Kinsey lay on the ground, hands raised above him in a sign of abject submission, a bullet from a police sniper pierced his leg.
Rios, 26, was diagnosed with a complex and disabling form of autism as a small child. He is largely non-verbal, though he can use a handful of words — “police” and “blood” and “hate” are among them. He’s big and he’s tall, and all that bigness can be a danger when Rios loses his temper.

On Monday, Rios decided to remain home from a day program he usually attends. Kinsey stayed home, too, to supervise him. When Rios left the group home — his toy truck, which he clings to for comfort, in his hand — Kinsey followed him. We can’t prevent people from going out the door; they have rights,” said MACtown’s director, Clinton Bower. “All we can do is try to ensure their safety.”

After Kinsey was shot, the caregiver was rolled onto his belly and handcuffed — an image that badly exacerbated the public relations nightmare North Miami police faced. But Rios, too, was treated like a criminal, said both his mother and Bower.
For at least three hours, the young man remained handcuffed in the back of a police squad car. Soto’s church friend begged officers to see Rios, as did Bower. But officers kept Rios under wraps until about 9 p.m., Bower said.
Police told Bower that Rios “was acting loopy,” Bower said, adding Rios kept talking about Disney characters. “They clearly couldn’t see he was a person with autism, or another disability.”
Dietz, the family’s lawyer, said Rios’ three hours in a police car might have been nearly as traumatic as the shooting. “This is a person who calms himself by slapping his hands and rocking,” Dietz said. But he could do nothing as waves of anxiety cascaded over him in police custody.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Friday, July 22, 2016

An Incident in North Miami

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss interactions between first responders and autistic people.  Police officers need training to respond appropriately.  When they do not, things get out of hand.

Francisco Alvarado, Michael E. Miller and Mark Berman report at The Washington Post:
Authorities said Thursday that they were investigating a shooting Monday in which a police officer shot a man who had said his hands were empty and raised at the time.
While the shooting was not captured on camera, a recording showing moments before the gunshots depicted a man lying on his back on the ground, his hands in the air, while another man sits near him cross-legged.
“All he has is a toy truck in his hand,” Charles Kinsey, the man lying on his back, yells at two police officers standing behind telephone poles just a few dozen feet away on Northeast 14th Avenue. “That’s all it is. There is no need for guns.”
Police said they only learned later that Kinsey worked at a care facility and that the man sitting near him was autistic.
After the recording stopped, one of the officers fired three shots, hitting Kinsey at least once in one leg.
[The Post’s police shootings database]
“When it hit me, I’m like, I still got my hands in the air,” Kinsey, an African American, said in an interview from his hospital bed with WSVN TV.
Police have not said why the officer fired, although a police union representative said Thursday that the officer, who has not been identified and who has been placed on administrative leave, was aiming for the man with autism — apparently thinking he was armed — and was trying to protect Kinsey.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

IEP and Retaliation

These meetings can turn nasty, and many autism parents have “IEP horror stories.”  One parent told me that she tried to ease tensions by bringing cookies to the meeting.  The principal then shouted to his staff, “Nobody touch those cookies!”  Another parent writes of asking for a sensory diet, a personalized activity plan that helps the student stay focused (e.g., low noise levels for those with a sensitivity to sound).  “After just proclaiming she is extremely knowledgeable about Asperger’s Syndrome, from the mouth of a school psychologist after we suggested our son needed a sensory diet. `Our cafeteria does not have the ability to provide this.’” 
EducationAdmin Web Advisor reports:
The Hampton City Schools system in Virginia must make amends after the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) determined that the school system had unlawfully retaliated against a parent by demanding that she be fired from her job for advocating on behalf of her daughter, a special needs student in one of the system’s elementary schools. The parent was fired by her employer, a contractor for Hampton City Schools, after the school system informed the contractor it did not want the parent working with its schools.
Prior to that adverse employment action, the parent had complained about the adequacy of her daughter’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). School officials contend that some of the parent’s demands were unreasonable, including requests to schedule IEP meetings outside of school and working hours. The student’s principal also alleged that the parent “verbally attacked” staff members at an IEP meeting and accused one staff member of a breach of confidentiality. However, the parent’s employer judged her work performance to be satisfactory, leaving OCR to conclude that the termination of her services was attributable to her advocacy on behalf of her child.
Such a retaliatory action, said OCR, violates the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, both of which prohibit discrimination against disabled individuals by public entities, including public education systems, and make it unlawful to retaliate against an individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by these laws.
To remedy its conduct, the Hampton City Schools agreed to take several corrective actions, including amending its policies to prohibit retaliation, posting notices of its anti-discrimination policies and complaint procedures, and providing training to school administrators on retaliation.
Read OCR findings letter

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

More Spending on Home and Community-Based Services

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss state Medicaid services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A report by Truven Health Analytics for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services finds that total federal and state Medicaid long-term services and supports (LTSS) spending was about $152 billion in federal fiscal year (FY) 2014, a 4.0 percent increase from the previous year.
The percentage of Medicaid LTSS attributable to HCBS [home and community-based services] continued to increase in Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, one year after HCBS accounted for a majority of Medicaid expenditures for the first time. The percentage of total LTSS spent on home and community-based services (HCBS) increased from 51.3 percent in FY 2013 to 53.1 percent in FY 2014. The shifting balance was caused by a 7.7 increase in HCBS spending, from $74.9 billion to $80.6 billion. Institutional service  spending was flat, with only a 0.2 percent increase from $71.1 billion to $71.2 billion.
The percentage of LTSS expenditures for HCBS continued to vary across population groups. HCBS accounted for 75 percent of spending in programs targeting people with developmental disabilities, compared to 41 percent of expenditures for programs targeting other large population groups: older people or people with physical disabilities, and people with serious mental illness or serious emotional disturbance. HCBS spending for all three populations increased relative to institutional services in FY 2014, but the historical differences in HCBS spending across the groups remained.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Legislation on Special Needs Trusts

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss special needs trusts.

A July 14 release from Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-PA):
This week, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved H.R. 670, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-5). The legislation removes arbitrary legal barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from independently creating Special Needs Trusts.

“Mr. Thompson is to be commended for the masterful way he has lined up bipartisan support for this important law to benefit persons with disabilities,” said Amos Goodall, of the State College based law firm Goodall & Yuchak, P.C. and public policy advocate for the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). “It is an example of his concern for persons who are less fortunate that has been the cornerstone of his activities throughout his career.”

Under current law, disabled individuals are required to have a legal guardian or the courts create a special needs trust on their behalf, regardless of whether or not they have the capacity to establish their own. This mandate can result in burdensome legal fees and extended wait periods in creating trusts—valuable tools that are often used to supplement daily living and care expenses when government benefits alone prove to be insufficient.

“I am pleased that the Energy and Commerce Committee took an important step toward correcting a legal inequity,” Thompson said. “This is a fundamental issue of equal protection under the law. We must safeguard the right of Americans living with disabilities to secure their future financial stability.”

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ari Ne'eman to Step Down

In 2006, 19-year-old Ari Ne’eman, who had a diagnosis of Asperger’s, cofounded the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) in response to what members saw as the absence of autistic voices in policy debates on autism. As a motto, the group adopted a saying from the broader disability rights movement, “Nothing About Us Without Us.” ASAN gained national publicity in 2007, with a successful campaign against billboards by the NYU Child Study Center depicting autism as a kidnaper. The ads, said the group, stigmatized people with autism by suggesting that their condition was hopeless. Although billboards appeared only in New York City, the response was nationwide. ASAN used the Internet to join forces with other disability rights organizations and gather thousands of petition signatures.
At the beginning of 2017, in five months time, I will be passing the Presidency of ASAN on to Julia Bascom, the organization’s current Deputy Executive Director and leaving the ASAN staff to contribute to the disability rights movement in new ways. Since joining the organization in 2012, Julia has played a critical role in building ASAN’s leadership programs along with other important aspects of our advocacy work and community programming. She already plays a central role within ASAN’s ongoing work, and I am very confident that the organization will grow and prosper in new and interesting ways under her leadership.
I’m convinced that this is the best way to help ASAN take the next steps into the future. Every organization requires periodic changes in leadership, and I am excited to be handing ASAN over to an excellent successor who will continue to grow it in line with the values and energy that have built us into what we are today. I am looking forward to being a part of new projects and continuing to build our movement in other roles.
This transition has been long planned. Our board was notified at the beginning of this year, and I have worked closely with the ASAN senior staff to ensure a smooth transition will take place at the end of December. Over the next five months, we will continue to work to ensure that ASAN’s important work continues to thrive and grow. As I move on to new things, I will nonetheless remain a member of the ASAN board of directors.