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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Autistic and African American: A Father's Fears

A number of posts have discussed encounters between police and ASD people. The Ferguson shooting and the Garner incident in New York have many African American parents on edge. At Medium, David Dennis, Jr. writes:
Just this week, one of our therapists sent a behavioral plan for Langston, saying that if he didn’t follow spoken instructions then we should physically guide him to do what we want from him. But his therapists are White. And as incredible and helpful as they’ve been, they don’t live with the reality that we do. Our son needs to know how to follow verbal instructions because if he doesn’t, a cop will find that as justification for ending my boy’s life. While we have to modify our language and communication to better convey our needs to our son and build his social skills, him knowing how follow explicit police instructions is non-negotiable. It’s life and death. I need him to know these things.
I keep thinking about what would happen if a cop is wearing gloves and puts his hands on my son. And my son pulls away because the texture of the gloves bother him. Or if my son just doesn’t like being touched by strangers. Or doesn’t react well when people point or raise their voices at him. Right now, the best way to get Langston to follow instructions is to get at eye level with him and explain very calmly what we need from him. What if that’ll always be the best way to communicate with him and a cop sees my son’s inability to process orders as an act of disobedience. 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?