Spring has arrived and many people in the US and around the world are hopeful that life will soon return to a normal pattern. Some schools are attempting to have an in person or hybrid final quarter. Many children can once again be seen taking walks, riding bikes, and moving around their neighborhoods.
Yet as the story of Elijah McClain reveals these activities may elicit some fear and concern if you are the parent of a child with disabilities or who is exceptional and may not respond socially as others in the community. The mere act of walking down the street and waving your hands in the air, while listening to music may "look sketchy" to someone who calls the police to investigate the person.
How would your son or daughter react to being stopped by the police while walking down the street? How might they react to your child’s social deficit, communication challenges, or hyperactivity? Unfortunately, far too often in our society a large number of injuries and deaths to individuals with special needs and mental health challenges have come from the hands of police. People with untreated mental health challenges are up to 16 times more likely to be injured by police according to the Treatment Advocacy Center (2018).
This reality puts parents in a difficult position. Your child is probably known in the neighborhood and peers who attend the same school may be willing to socialize and include him/her in activities. This socialization is very important for your child’s development. However, the risk from others who do not know them may be great. Consequently, it is important for all parents of special needs and exceptional children to have THE TALK with their children.
· The talk according to Wikipedia: is a colloquial expression for a conversation some Black parents in the United States feel compelled to have with their children and teenagers about the dangers they face due to racism or unjust treatment from authority figures, law enforcement or other parties, and how to de-escalate them. The practice dates back generations and is often a rite of passage for Black children.
This process is something that will help prepare your child for a possible unexpected interaction with authority figures. Each family must find their own way to explain this risk to their child. In our current society it is essential to provide your child this extra layer of protection and awareness when moving around the community.
Unfortunately, in Elijah McClain’s case he was unable to explain to the police in words they could understand that he was not a threat. He described himself as an introvert who did not like to be touched. He apologized for anything that they thought he did wrong. He even told them where he lived, very near to where he was arrested. Yet he was still restrained and injected with ketamine after being placed in a choke hold. Elijah fell into a comma and died a few days later. The risks are great and parents must do all they can to protect children from such a scenario. Please watch for additional information about specific things you can do to help support your child’s safety. _____________________________________________________________________
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[This information is provided for educational purposes. Each state has slightly different rules and therefore presented information is based on general special education and federal laws. This should not be considered as a provision of specific legal or medical advice.]