When an autistic adult has a meltdown that family members can’t control, police officers are sometimes called to the scene. How the interaction progresses can be influenced by how well local police understand Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in general and the needs of their specific community members. Autism After 16 sheds light on this issue in an article called, “Well-Informed is Well-Armed: Easing Police Response to Domestic Incidents.” Written by Police Officer Jerry Turning, who has a son with autism, the article seeks to help families work with local police by providing information and education.
Turning, who has previously written for Autism After 16 on the subject of autism and wandering, is a police Lieutenant in a municipal police department and a certified police K9 Handler and Trainer. His son was diagnosed at 2 years old with autism. He sees a gap in understanding between families and the police and is committed to helping educate both sides of the equation.
“Just Google ‘police and autism’ and you will see page after page of tragic encounters between police and ASD individuals,” Turning says. “That’s simply unacceptable. I believe that many of these tragedies can be attributed to poor communication between the police and the autism community.”
But writing about these issues can be as complicated as the autism spectrum itself, and Turning hopes families will extrapolate from his insights to their own experiences. “Autism is a spectrum. Writing about it in general terms is difficult and sometimes frustrating. Many of the suggestions and examples I provide may not apply to your particular loved one's situation, abilities and challenges. My sincere hope is that everyone who reads my articles can find at least one or two tips that might help in some small way,” he notes.
Having a son with autism has taught Turning a great deal about the needs of this population. “I have found there is an enormous amount of ignorance and misunderstanding about autistic individuals and their families. That is my singular focus when I write: to reduce that ignorance and increase understanding … for my son.” What’s the single most important thing Turning wants police to understand about autistic people? “Challenges in expressive language and communication do not necessarily correlate with lack of intellect or inability to understand language.”
Autism After 16 is a website devoted to providing information and analysis of adult autism issues. Over 50 percent of its contributing writers are autistic adults, while many others are family members. Autism After 16 provides informational articles on accessing adult services, links to useful resources, and a library of videos to help teach independent living skills