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I would rather have my child!

Updated: Jun 29

Raising a child with special needs is a challenge, and a joy, and a special mission that many parents take on with all of the resilience and fortitude that they can find. The children can require a wide range of special services and the parents can use special supports in order to get through each day. Many parents have developed strategies that have led to stable functioning that may seem more appropriate for younger children. These can include: maintain a stable and predictable schedule, creating a specific sleep hygiene, allowing them only to go out in the community with supervision.

These procedures are very useful and are often cited by therapists, physicians, researchers and educators who work with children who have educational disabilities and/or emotional-behavioral problems.Yet these challenges become greater when the children or young adults have to interact with new people within their community, school, or workplace.The goal of parents is to support their child allowing them to become as independent and self-sufficient as possible despite their condition.Unfortunately, the interactions between special needs populations and the overall community and police have led to many stories that reflect the worst night mare of parents of individuals on the Autism Spectrum, or who have communication challenges, or who have intellectual difficulties

One of the earliest posts on this site was entitled “The Talk”. It was evident for many parents of ethnic minority children that the same discussion that they had to have with their children regarding interactions with the police and “authorities” also needed to be held between parents and their special needs children. These discussions included: how to act and what to say and even the tone to take when talking to authorities. Yet the self-control needed in these situations and the calm demeanor that will calm police are often difficult to manage when anxious or agitated.

A mother in Utah asked for police assistance to help with her Autistic child who was experiencing a medical and emotional emergency. A few minutes after the police arrived the child had been shot and had to be taken to the hospital for a stomach wound. Data from the US Department of education report that school police are between 2 and 5 times as likely to arrest a special needs child (even higher for minority children) than their white peers in school. Indeed, in Virginia in 2020 a state law was passed preventing police from arresting students with disorderly conduct charges. Yet in other areas in order to get help for a child with a medical emergency (danger to self or others) schools must call police to transport the students to an emergency room for evaluation. The police report that they had to hand cuff the child in order to transport regardless of the age.

Consequently, often in the process of seeking support the children or young adults can be further traumatized. Even when the individual is doing everything as they should they often are not provided sufficient time to explain themselves or to get help. Indeed when a group home worker was helping an Autistic man get out of the street, police, despite following their orders, shot him. This all revives the sad case of Elijah McClain. The young man, who was known to play violin to kittens, was stopped, chocked, and battered by police and then medically sedated by paramedics. He never recovered from a coma that occurred after the event. On September 1, 2021, the state district attorney brought charges against 3 policemen and 2 paramedics for manslaughter in relation to their actions. The trial still has to occur and the police union is stating that their actions were justified. Elijah’s father reported that he is thankful that his son’s killers will be held accountable. I am sure he would rather just have his child alive at home.

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