A wrongful death suit against the Los Angeles Police Department highlights the need for police to be
properly trained in recognizing and interacting with
children with autism.
Mohammad Chaudhry, a twenty-eight year old Pakistani-American was fascinated with how people survive brutal conditions and made it a habit to sleep outdoors. The account of what happened,
news reports, is as follows:
¨It started as a routine police encounter after officers spotted a shadowy figure lying under a balcony behind a Hollywood apartment building. The man, Mohammad Usman Chaudhry, was cordial at first. He handed over his ID and chatted with officers about his shoes, other cops he knew and how he stayed dry when it rained.
Moments later, he was dead."
The officers in question report that Chaudhry was glancing around suspiciously and appeared to be pulling something from his waistband. The officer who fired shots contends Chaudhry pulled out a knife and lunged at him, but his partner saw no weapon, and Chaudhry´s heartbroken family contend a knife was planted after the fact.
Indeed, until the suit was filed, the knife in question was never tested for Chaudry´s
DNA and when it finally was, there was no evidence that the slain man had ever made contact with it.
There has been an alarming uptick in the number of cases such as this, including a police brutality suit in Seattle over an autistic teen stopped for jaywalking who ended up with four police officers on him, a broken nose, and a concussion.
Some police departments have begun to educate officers in dealing with
individuals with autism, but they are simply only one-hour classes. Autism advocates point out that law enforcers need at least eight hours
of training in how to distinguish autism from psychiatric impairment and drug influence, then interact successfully to avert more unnecessary tragedies.
Dennis Debbaudt of Autism Risk and
Safety Management, runs an organization that involves the training of law
enforcement officials for just these kind of scenarios. Autism Key previously
interviewed Mr. Debbaudt, who is an ex-law enforcement official and a father of
a child with autism. In the interview, he gave some very insightful information
about the need for the kind of training his organization provides. That
interview can be heard here.
Hopefully, more law enforcement agencies will take advantage of the available
training to better equip police offers and first responders in dealing with
those with autism. If not, cases like the one involving Mr. Chaudhry will
continue to take place.
I have been somewhat criticized for making myself and my child a
"walking billboard" for autism. I have listened to and given much thought
on this matter, keeping my child’s privacy in mind. However, my most recent research into the difficulties presented
for emergency workers, thanks largely to a number of authors who have written much on this subject,
has reassured me that I am in fact, doing the right thing.
Should something happen in your home such as a fire, emergency crews will arrive
and they’ll need to have as much information as possible about your child. Any
child will be scared in such an instance, but think about how your autistic child will
feel when "alien" looking creatures show up with axes and breathing
masks — they will most likely hide and stay hidden. They may not, or very likely,
CANNOT cry out for help. They will most likely not respond when they are called
out to. As a result, the emergency workers will need any information they can
IF and when they have rescued your child, first responders must also know that your child needs unique treatment. This is a two-way street. Your child needs to be prepared and
the teams of people helping in your community need to be prepared as well.
Regardless of what the emergency may be, whether it includes emergency workers or retail employees, information about your child’s special needs
is in the best interest of you and your child.
Personally, I will be contacting the city to see what it would take to have a street sign with
"Child With Autism" placed in front of my apartment. This will guarantee that whether an emergency team responds to an injury, a wandering incident, a burglary or any other situation, they will be prepared to respect and assist my child in whatever the case may be. It may also help your neighbors to understand the screams that accompany your child’s typical
meltdowns, which may otherwise be misinterpreted.
My child wears t-shirts with autism slogans, my purse has puzzle pieces on it and I am having our sneakers painted with autism slogans and cause ribbons. I just ordered 2 yards of the
autism puzzle piece fabric and will be thinking of other ways to decorate
When we recently moved into our new neighborhood, I walked up and down my street and told
everyone about our journey. My child is four and will tell you himself that he
has autism. He may not know what that means, but upon hearing his declaration, those in the community will know that he is special.
Labeling your child is essential for social, medical and educational resources,
as well as emergency response teams and overall community awareness. Telling the world your child
has autism is also one of the first steps in coming out of denial. You need to both learn and prepare for what your child’s best interests really
Perhaps it’s pride, shame or our own idea of "protecting" when we fail
to notify others about our child. The age-old stigma that was placed on
those with special needs cannot be broken if we don’t all bring this out into the light. The
current numbers of autistic persons that are known are just the tip of the iceberg
due to those undiagnosed and those in hiding. Coming forward is a necessary
element to place autism at the global forefront where it belongs.
Emergency response teams have difficult jobs. Don’t make their work harder, or even impossible, because you are afraid or have justified guarding
your autism "secret." Above all, don’t wait until it is too late.
It’s not just your child that needs help coming out of the darkness — it is
you as well.
Turn the lights on in the scary closet to reveal that there are no monsters, then proudly tell the world,
“My child is unique, isn’t yours?”
Any parent with a school-aged child knows that both classroom issues and homework
can often be overwhelming for students. And no one knows that better than the parents of
a child with autism. Not only do autistic students have an academic curriculum, but they have a social curriculum which is every bit as demanding and exhausting. Deciphering a myriad of social cues, making incessant transitions, contending with sensory input –
it’s a day’s work in itself. Is it any wonder that they balk when it’s time to hit the books at home?
Parents, take heart. Accomodating for a child with autism is their legal right.
Extensions on due dates and taking a class pass/fail instead of having a letter grade can be very
helpful in easing the stress and anxiety that are commonly associated with
academics. If your child is dyslexic as many with autism are, proper spelling should not impact his or her grade. If writing out ideas is particularly
odious or poor penmanship associated with fine motor skills is a problem, your child can
have a scribe.
Additionally, accomplishing assignments in short bursts with breaks in between
can relieve the stress of a long assignment.
The renowned autism expert, Dr. Tony Attwood, has written extensively on the subject of homework
and academics for autistics in his books and articles. After invoking his sage advice that autistics work no more than thirty minutes a night on school work, one teacher let me
initial my son’s homework after a half-hour spent, then considered him done.
In the classroom, many useful ideas can be written into an IEP such as using a keyboard instead of taking notes longhand, having a calculator, learning math with computer software instead of in a group, and creating a cozy corner with pillows and books for the
over-stimulated youngster to retreat to.
Listening to an iPod is helpful as well
if your child is soothed by music. Middle and high school students can be
dismissed five minutes early from class to avoid the crush of humanity in the
halls and be given time during the day to do their homework at school.
You know your child best. Give free expression to your ideas about what would enhance their learning experience, then work to have them implemented.
Improvement in the quality of your
child’s educational life through your efforts, on their behalf, is a profoundly gratifying experience
and something that should not be overlooked.
Earlier this month, we wrote about an upsetting incident involving the arrest of a girl with special needs on a school bus. The officer in the incident,
Deputy Mark Perrin, was fired as a result of his actions:
One of the pressing questions that has yet to be asked in that case is, "Where was the bus driver in this
incident and why didn’t
he/she immediately let the officer know about the child’s
condition when he stepped onto the bus?"
This poses the larger issue of the need for proper training and awareness for
EVERYONE who will potentially come into contact with special needs kids on a day-to-day or
week-to-week basis, particularly school bus drivers.
Recently, after a lengthy conversation with the state head of
School Transportation, Special Education, I was asked to write a paper that
would be used in semi-annual training for drivers and monitors.
My training information has since been implemented and is being used as a positive
training and educational tool. This all stemmed from my son’s monitor and driver, who
both refused to greet or speak with him on his forty-five minute bus
trip each day.
After the training was implemented, they began to greet and speak with him
on a daily basis.
Here are some excerpts of the paper that was implemented in the
AUTISM is at epidemic levels and still increasing.
Of the children who are screened, less than 1 in 52 boys are predisposed to
autism spectrum disorders.
Less than 1 in 200 girls are also affected.
These numbers are based solely on the children screened. Estimates of the population that are not screened are over 50%.
This is up over 400% from 10 years ago.
There are many other and overlapping spectrum disorders that are on the rise
such as ADD, ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, and OCD.
Perhaps if we think of autism as delays, it will no longer sound so overwhelming. Whether it is batting a ball or potty training, we are all delayed in some areas. Autism, however, affects
social behaviors. Kids may not be expressing needs, likes or wants, but they
have them just like
They also may be over-expressing them with temper tantrums, meltdowns and
other behaviors that involve "acting out." Of course it’s much more complicated than
that, but this will help you understand and not be as confused or overwhelmed
when dealing with an autistic child.
Autistic kids appear to be typical kids.
What can we ALL do to help?
Children with autism have interrupted senses. There is ongoing research and detailed information about their skin, pain centers, taste, smells, hearing, sight,
and light sensitivity. If the area is affected, it will either be too sensitive, not
enough, or not working at all.
Children with autism kids also take everything literally. If you say it’s raining cats and
dogs, they will look out the window and think of puppies and kittens are falling from the
sky. Say exactly what you mean and try to avoid such clichés.
Children with autism think in pictures and visual stimulation is what they crave. Think of
Barney, Chris Rock or whoever you think of as highly animated. Now think of watching the
news and imagine Jim Carey or someone else similar as the news anchor! Yes, it would be worth watching and you couldn’t help it. It would also be fun. It’s not WHAT you say, it’s HOW you say it.
Children with autism remember each and every part of their lives like a photograph. Your
face and your expressions will burn into their memories like a scrapbook. Everyone likes to be remembered as smiling and
Please be animated. Use gestures. Vary your voice and expressions. Don’t be fooled into thinking the kids don’t understand everything you say
or don’t say.
Though they have many similarities, no two autistic children are the same, just
like snowflakes. Neither are typical kids. Neither are we.
To date, autism is not deemed "curable." It will exist for a lifetime. There is NO degree of severe or mild upon diagnosis,
that judgment is made depending upon the amount of therapy it will take for the
kids to "catch up." No one knows until the evaluations are done and accommodating therapy begins.
Adults with autism are generally "quirky." Quirky people are fun to be around and uniqueness is what makes us all interesting and remarkable.
These kids CAN grow up and lead functional lives and each person in their life can
help (or hinder) that possibility.
Since they need to feel safe, as we all do, please make eye contact, know their
names and do not underestimate what they might be thinking.
Children with autism need to be welcomed by the world they are born into, kind of like
being a new kid at school. Something as simple as being greeted and invited to sit at a lunch table instead of eating alone in silence can
literally change a life.
Drivers and especially monitors, imagine that YOU can be the one to change that life.
Now, don’t imagine anymore — go out and make a difference!
Every parent of a child with autism knows the financial and emotional burdens of
the disorder, the long waiting lists for services, the exorbitant costs of
services, all the while the clock ticks on vital early intervention.Historically, lack of insurance coverage for autism has left many in dire
This January, Oregon entered the fray as
the first state of 2011 to introduce autism insurance reform legislation with
both a House and Senate version of the bill.
The article posts a link to AutismVotes.org
which presents a map of the country detailing the status of legislation in each
state — a fascinating overview of the national movement to get all 50 states on board.It’s encouraging to discover that more progress has been made than one
might imagine.Twenty-three states
at this time have enacted autism health care reform with only Oklahoma, Utah,
and Wyoming having done nothing whatsoever.
On January 21st of this year, California
was the next west coast state to introduce legislation to make sure autism
treatment is covered by insurance.This
bill takes on the insurance companies as well, mandating that loopholes be
closed so that insurers cannot impose arduous waiting periods for payments.It also prohibits them from shifting costs to public agencies, avoiding
taxpayer burden and concomitant wrath.
But even when states have enacted autism
reform laws, it doesn’t mean the problems are over.AutismVotes.org is also confronting inequities instates where insurance plans aren’t required to cover autism services if
they are ¨self-funded."Assuring
there is across-the-board parity is another ambition of the group.
According news reports, Smith was a therapist for the South
Carolina Early Autism Project, but it appears the organization is denying the
assault took place on their watch as there are some discrepancies between his
time with SCEAP and when the alleged crime(s) occurred. For good reason, many
involved in the case appear not to be talking to the media.
It’s also unclear what kind of acts Smith may have committed, but one report says an attempted choking incident occurred back in 2009.
It’s not known if that incident is tied to the current criminal sexual
misconduct charge or if it was a separate, unrelated incident.
What’s interesting is in his mug shot, Smith appears to be wearing a wedding
ring. It’s not uncommon for child predators to marry or pretend to be married as
a "front" to help gain the trust of victims and their families. It’s
too soon to say if that applies to this case or if Smith is in fact married, but
what’s interesting is that police have stated that there may be other victims,
which would fuel the speculation of a possible double-life.
Additionally, reports say that Bradford Smith has posted a $50,000 surety
bond and is currently out on bail.
It’s cases like these that really emphasize the need to overhaul the criminal
justice system when it comes to those who prey on and take advantage of our
children and special needs population. The courts need to come down HARD on individuals that violate the trust that is given to them
by parents and their children.
This case will be monitored closely and if in fact Bradford Smith is convicted of these crimes, it is our hope that he is punished to the fullest extent of the law. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.
On January 21, 2011, CNN.com ran an Op-Ed by Dr. Rahul K. Parikh stating that parents of unvaccinated children should pay substantially higher insurance rates than those who are in compliance. He argued that the discrediting of Dr. Andrew Wakefield,
once and for all, settled the issue of vaccines and autism. Furthermore,
it was suggested that the obstinate parents who refused to be convinced, must now pay exorbitant premiums for their unvaccinated children,
who are putting everyone else at risk.
Dr. Parikh´s central premise that the repudiation of one study settles this
issue once and for all is illogical, if not ludicrous.
When asked if there is life elsewhere in the universe Carl Sagan sagely replied, ¨Absence of proof is not proof of absence."
The same can be said for the vaccine controversy. The disgracing of a single study does not constitute proof that there is no correlation between the rise in autism and the rise in the
number and types of vaccinations required by law.
Dr. Jacqueline McCandless, the brilliant clinician and autism expert came to Dr. Wakefield´s defense by circulating a petition stating, ¨Dr. Andrew J. Wakefield’s findings of gastrointestinal pathologies in a subgroup of children with autism are very important. His persecution is akin to the persecution of Semmelweis¨.
For the unknowing, of which I was one, Ignaz Semmelweis was the nineteenth century Hungarian physician who advocated hand washing by staff in hospitals to reduce infection. He was ruthlessly scorned, then later
vindicated (You can read Dr. McCandless´ entire statement at the Age of
Rather than ending the vaccine debate altogether, the current media blitz of the dangers of Dr. Wakefield and his study have intensified the need for more clear-eyed, impartial research by scientists whose only aim is to find the truth,
whatever that may be.
The cynic in me says this will never happen, but the idealist says it must. The backlash against Dr. Wakefield and
the questioning of parents is evidence that the plates of society’s bedrock assumptions are bumping up against each other and inexorably shifting.
One of the first guilt trips given to parents of newly diagnosed autistic children is the
"too much television" bullet. Let’s get the timeline correct. Your child
had autism before he started watching TV and it is no more responsible
then vaccines, which just dropped out of first place.
Kids like to watch television. Use this to your advantage and use it as a
constructive tool to help your child and also use it for quality "Mary
First of all, no adult programming. This includes the news, emotional soap operas, Jerry Springer horror stories,
football and even semi-violent cartoons such as Spiderman and Batman. Your child is learning through visual input and will mimic what he sees. Research shows that when all aggression on the
television has been taken away, kids began to stop their own imitations of violence. This includes self harm.
My son was crashing into walls and banging his head until it was brought to my attention that whenever
football was on, dad was excited and cheering his team on. So, the son was trying to imitate what was bringing on the enthusiasm of his dad.
When the football programming was stopped, the wall crashing and head banging disappeared soon after.
The next step is to watch only educational programming and turn the captions on. This is critical, since reading and writing may very well come long before speech.
Kids are seeing and memorizing the spoken words which is similar to being read to. They are clicking photos frame by frame and the words are getting into their brains. Reading and even writing before speech is quite common and not just in
"high functioning" kids. You don’t have to go far to learn that Nickelodeon, Sprout, Disney, Public Broadcasting and
the like have spent millions working with child psychologists, teachers, parents and countless other experts to create positive
No television should ever be left on when not being watched. If you don’t turn it off, it loses
its teaching power.
Sit down and watch the programming with your child and he will look to you for the appropriate reactions. So if the alphabet comes on, you just became a
cheerleader: “Give me an A, “A”, give me a B, "B." Or counting with toys, beans, balls,
shoes or whatever interests your child.
Furthermore, immediately purchase letters and numbers, shapes, blocks, texture toys and maybe even a Doodle Pro to be able to interact with the TV and your child. Find
a few special programs that seem to hold his interest then take that time everyday to participate in it with him. Always show great enthusiasm and make this your mutual special time.
Turning the TV off won’t be a problem unless you’ve left it on constantly up until now. In that case, end your programming time with a favorite activity. Visual and physical games, combined with high levels of animated and visual enthusiasm
will help your child to transition. Remember, meltdowns will occur but you cannot give in or you have just reinforced the
negative of "if I have a meltdown, I get my way."
There are tremendous teaching videos as well. Again, be a part of this teaching tool and don’t let it be your babysitter. The cure is
you and your interaction is key.
You’ve done what you’ve done and you are where you are. A few days of not giving in and planning ahead a favorite activity will soon become the
routine and you will start weaning your child away from droning or stimming into TV
land. What was once a potential detriment now becomes a major asset in helping
your child’s progress. Keep in mind, however, no violent or adult programming.
Keep captions on and provide letters, shapes and numbers with textures to feel
and touch, corresponding them to programming. Don’t forget to cheerlead and have
lots of patience and your child will be on the right path.
And as with most things, moderation is the key and adherence to daily routines with your
child will bring you positive results. Learning through play takes some time,
but will eventually bring out the Mary Poppins in all of us.
Parents are inundated with the warnings about the perils of cyberspace and the necessity
of protecting their children, a task made more daunting if that child is a
guileless autistic.When my
fourteen-year-old son gushed that he had met a boy on a forum that was
interested in all the same things he was, right down to creating his own
language system, alarms immediately went off.To
further raise my suspicions, the other boy also happened to be autistic. Of
course, as a parent, we think of the worst-case scenario of an old man in a
bathrobe mirroring a young teen to gain his trust. Even
more anxiety intensified as they wanted to meet.
there is something known as "time checking."This is when the correspondent holds up a newspaper with the date and time (not unlike a hostage
displaying a newspaper), takes a picture of him or herself and emails it back
immediately. This instant validation process makes it very difficult for an
online predator to
operate anonymously. Once my son’s
email pal turned out to be who he was, the boy’s equally nervous mother and I
arranged to bring our sons to The Aquarium so everyone could get acquainted in a
safe environment.All went
swimmingly.Plans are on for the
next excursion as we parents slowly foster a new friendship between our
uncannily similar children.
children didn’t have access to the Internet until relatively late in their lives,
and for good reason.But for
parents whose children do get an early start at cybersurfing, there is a completely free Internet browser called Zac Browser (www.zacbrowser.com),
which was developed by a grandfather who wanted his low functioning autistic
grandson to have safe and happy access to the Internet. It is the only
browser made specifically for kids on the autism spectrum and is loaded with fun
activities and has received very high marks from parents who have tried it.
will be jealous — it has no spyware, ads or viruses.
Disclaimer.This is a theory and involves a culmination of extensive research,
consultations, personal experience and logic. I urge everyone to do their own
homework so that another Dr. Wakefield incident is not replicated.
autism is on the rise and has been since the 1960′s. Granted, the newest
screening techniques and awareness have made it look more like a jump than the
reality of a steady surge.
has no borders and we must focus our attention on all of the similarities that
causes that affect the global rates may include carbon pollutants, factories
billowing heavy metals into the air and water, auto emissions, Chernobyl-type
incidents and other environmental factors.All of these may play a role, to an
metals laden in the human body do indeed cause genetic mutations. Heavy metals
in the brain wreak havoc. The auto-immune system reacts by attacking the
brain. This could all cause neurological interruptions, indeed.
not arguing that these don’t play a part, but since we are not all affected,
there must be another factor.
a woman with high levels of testosterone. I produced two spectrum-disordered
boys. My youngest daughter is earmarked for bi-polar syndrome and my oldest
daughter’s son is showing signs of toddler bi-polar. All three of these boys
have the same birth date and all three were above average, extremely cognitive
and healthy babies.
that the vaccine myths have at last been dispelled, the correct answer can be
linked to hormones, birth control and chemically-produced hormones. This is not
a conspiracy and cannot be undone.
twenty years ago, we realized that although our recycled water could be
made bacteria-free by processes that would make our water safe, our
filtration systems were not and are not enough to remove hormones and other
numerous chemical substances.
recent media-assisted push to stop flushing old medications down toilets
depositing them in drug boxes such as mailboxes outside of courthouses and
other government buildings is no coincidence. Certain drugs and drug compounds
remain in our water supplies and we are in turn replenishing them back into our bodies
over and over again.
incidence of infertility has also been on the rise during the same time as
autism. It has been proven that over time, men and women (especially
child-bearing women) that have higher levels of hormones will have issues.
woman gets pregnant while on birth control, is that not harmful to the fetus?
we getting the big picture?
is no way around it — we are genetically mutated and the cause is
overwhelmingly linked to HORMONES.
acquire hormones through our poultry, beef and even our water supply, which is
the basic lifeline to everything we put into our bodies. As a result, we are
seeing the devastating consequences.
least four chromosomal disorders have been linked to autism. Males with autism
have higher levels of hormones than typical males. Higher levels of hormones
exist in the wombs of mothers bearing autistic developing fetuses than those
carrying typically developing fetuses. All of these facts are researched, proven
and known but unfortunately, the vaccine myth has turned society’s attention
away from them.
“modern world” began sending shipments of birth control and hormone-related
drugs to numerous third world and underprovided nations some fifty years
ago. In well-intended efforts in trying to control population numbers, we were
imposing our modern medicine on the rest of the world and it worked, to some
began taking birth control in unprecedented numbers. Through women’s
urine, these hormones went into our water systems. Incapable of filtering these
massive amounts of hormones, the recycled water re-entered our atmosphere,
environment, homes and bodies. The fact that hormones have a long half-life
(the time it takes a drug to completely leave the body) does not help matters
is also been proven that spectrum disordered males tend to have effeminate
characteristics versus typical males and disordered girls carry higher levels of
testosterone. These results continue to point toward hormonal imbalances as
being the culprit. Additionally, the uneven balance of males with autism vs.
females with autism (four times as prevalent) also points to a hormonal link.
was in fact, the drug companies who were responsible, but it’s not something
that we can undo. We now have to turn our research facilities into therapy-based
facilities for the generations here and the many more to follow. The genetics of
the planet are mutated and there’s no stopping the spectrum disordered
the while, the answer was right in front of our noses.It was developed for the agricultural world, it has been in our purses,
under our pillows, in our drawers and handed out like candy around the globe.
spent far too much attention vilifying life-saving vaccines rather than looking
in our own homes. This was self-induced and we are still doing it today.
the drug companies stop making hormones? Will the agricultural markets give them
up? Will filtration systems around the world ever be capable of ridding our
water systems of chemicals that are genetically changing the human race? I
certainly hope so.
IS the answer that has eluded us.
Let’s stop diverting attention away from the real issues and start encouraging drug companies, scientists, engineers and governments to do what they can to effectively remove or reduce hormones.
your part and only buy poultry or meat that is hormone-free. Let’s lessen the
damage. Let us not get side tracked again and lose sight of the real need. The
affected kids are already here. The adults are here. The age of man-made
hormones, particularly in birth control, has brought on the age of autism.
in the process of trying to control the population, we have genetically
rearranged it forever.
is my theory. A theory that actually makes sense – globally.
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Autism strikes a family’s heart, soul and wallet. Estimates by The Autism Society puts a lifetime of care for an autistic child at $3.2 million. Autism parents know firsthand the brutal toll to the family coffers of therapies that can run $40,000 to $50,00 per year. Families tangle with insurance companies, invariably ending up with […]