I received this idea, and the included ‘list’ from a friend who is raising several ‘Special Needs’ children. Her kids are bright, fun to be around, generally polite and soft-spoken. Because of their particular issues, however, they can, on rare occasion, be next to impossible to deal with.During these times, rationality and logic seem nonexistent.
These episodes may be dramatic in sight and sound, but are short-lived and when handled by an experienced care-giver or parent, amount to “no big deal”
Persons with special needs and their care givers are twice as likely to have encounters with police and other first responders than the ‘average’ citizen.
Just recently, a child with Down’s syndrome was subdued by TASER in a situation that could have been easily defused by the parent or care-giver. In another incident police arrested a woman in diabetic shock, pulled her from her ‘parked’ car, threw her face-down on the pavement, handcuffed her and treated her like she was intoxicated.
I promise we are not trying to do your job for you, just make it easier for all of us.
With the above in mind, the special needs community would like for you to know a few things.
ATTN: Police and First Responders!
- When you approach a vehicle, scan for window decals and bumper stickers. If you see one for Autism, Down’s syndrome, mental illness, or similar special condition, be aware that someone in the vehicle may not act as you might normally expect.
- My pacing or avoiding eye contact is NOT a sign of guilt. It is a sign of me being uncomfortable and overwhelmed.
- Some autistics are nonverbal. Sometimes they only speak in scripts. This is not a sign of disrespect. It is how they communicate.
- Some people have what is called Echolia. This means when you ask them a question they may just repeat your question back to you. This is not disrespect it is merely their form of communication.
- Sometimes things that seem inappropriate are said. In many cases this is uncontrollable, and again, not meant to be disrespectful.
- Tourette’s and Asberger’s Syndromes may exhibit themselves as sudden physical movements and unexpected vocal outbursts, sometimes obscene. These tics and other seemingly anti-social behavior are merely symptomatic of their disease and are not aimed at you. Asking the subject to stop is useless because if they could, they would.
- Some people may become aggressive when overwhelmed. This is a reaction to stress and being overwhelmed. It is not an attempt to resist you.
- If a parent, friend, or care giver is present (even if they are the one who called you) allow them to help you approach the person if needed.
- Allow the parent, friend, or care giver to calm the person. I promise they can do it faster and safer than you can. It’s not disrespect, they just know what to do.
- You do not TAZE an Eight year old child, even if that child is coming at you screaming with a pair of scissors. If your training doesn’t include how to swiftly, safely and humanely disarm an attacker half your size, perhaps it’s time for a re-do.
- If the subject is alone, look for Med-Alert and Project Lifesaver bracelets, they can tell you a lot about a person.
- Do not just grab for a wrist or leg to check for a bracelet, the action could be misinterpreted as aggression..
- Remember Med-Alert bracelets are no longer the old school, tacky, silver ugly things. They can be metal, plastic or look like a watch. So just ask “hey can I see your bracelet,” and take a quick peek at it.
- If a person has a Project Lifesaver bracelet (GPS tracking) they may be lost and disoriented. Calmly approach but keep your distance if needed. Force is not required — a cool head is.
- Ask the parent, do not just assume. What first appears to be abuse or neglect (naked child running around) may not be. Wearing clothing may be a sensory issue and the child may be having a sensory break from their clothing. We try to keep our nakedness inside but sometimes it doesn’t happen.
- A child yelling and screaming in a parking lot may not be in danger, they may be in full “meltdown.” Learn the signs of a meltdown so when you approach you can tell the difference.
- When approaching please be kind to everyone involved. It is stressful for the caregiver as well as the person who is having the meltdown. Having someone forceably interject only makes things worse. Again a cool head is key.
- We may not show it but we do appreciate it when you show concern for our screaming child and are just checking to make sure they are OK — really we do.
- In cases where the subject needs to go with you, let them take their comfort item. Really, is the toy they are holding really going to prevent you from doing your job? It may seem silly but it is after all, theirs.
- If you do need to remove a comfort item, please treat it with respect. You may not understand, but would you like it if someone went in your home and took your stuff away, and then didn’t take care of it because it wasn’t important to them?