Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Police, Emergency services and Autism, what you can do

I recently had some interesting responses to an old Hub Pages article I wrote on what to do about an autistic meltdown, should you (as someone who isn't necessarily experienced) be faced with one. That article is HERE for the reading.

Amongst responses is the general disagreement on calling police in the situations for fear they'll only make things worse. Thanks to media sources and happenings across the globe, this is a legitimate fear. Even with good programs available to help all of our emergency services, too many departments still aren't educated on autism. Reports of autistic persons being tazed or tackled still come up.

With police, the simple fact is that training is meant to keep them alive. It is not geared toward handling autism in the first place. So when they come across a weird and escalating situation, they will subdue first and ask questions later. Remember, police routinely face situations were a gun or knife could pop out of anywhere. People go violent on them all the time. It's a high stress environment that can and will kill you if you aren't on your toes.

What we need to do is offer the education to our departments. There is no reason that any of you can't take this information, walk into the police department and make them aware of it (nicely). The same goes for any emergency department. Offer it to City Hall for that matter. Make it known and always approach as a 'friend'. We can make changes and make a difference. So, first, what are these sources?
First let me introduce you to the work of Dennis Debbaudt (yes, click on his name for the website). Dennis is nationally known now for his program geared toward helping emergency services with autistic persons. He has a series of books and videos and a very impressive resume of appearances. You could say that Dennis is loaded with information. You can even write or call him directly for additional information or advice on approaching your emergency services.
Next, Bill Cannata who is with the ALEC program. That stands for Autism and Law Enforcement Coalition. Click on the name to see the website. Bill has direct experience as the Captain of a fire department. ALEC offers a training program for all forms of emergency services in handling persons with autism. Make sure to check out the website and take it down in notes to offer to your emergency divisions.

Next I'm going to actually direct you to another blog; Autism 101 for Fire and Rescue. Yep, another link there. It's a long posting and offers some of the info I've given here, but you'll also find a couple of informative checklists further down as well as a host of more links. Take this info to offer to your local services.

With all that, how do you approach them? How do you get them to take part? Well, here's my take on that.

1: Always approach as a friend. You purpose is not just for your own autistic family members, but for the community as a whole. Understanding of autism can increase officer safety, civilian safety, and save critical time in emergencies. As a member of the autistic community, you can get organized and offer this information for all involved.

2: Show numbers. Help them to understand just how many members of the community have autism. Help them see a need. Use current news of the area and incident reports to support the interest. Remember, be friendly! Anger or outbursts will get you shut out or in legal trouble.

3: If you are treated poorly or turned away (rudely perhaps), use the "chain of command". Go to the head of the hospital, Mayor's office of your city, Representatives, Senators, or even Governor. Offer them the same information and show concerns and numbers accordingly. Tell them about your experience with the people who work under them and your disappointment.

4: Don't give up. You can be heard and improvements can be made. Just always be friendly and polite. Give flyers and information packets. Be organized and neat. And contact the resources I've listed here for their input on that matter too.

It's also a good idea to let emergency services know there is an autistic person in your home. It's okay that they know you or your autistic family member. Some people even have stickers on their door for emergency information.

Hopefully, this information helps you make better connections with your local agencies for the betterment of community. Please feel free to share your own ideas and this blog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bullying and Suicide: A Special Message

See that picture? I drew it a long time ago. It's called "Persecution" and it's what bullying looks and feels like. Click on it to see it up close.

I've been seeing commercials and reports for the "It gets better" project. Along with that there is the Trevor Project. Now, these are geared toward teens who are gay or lesbian and that's fine. Bullying is wrong and no one should be pushed to the point of killing themselves. It's a tragedy. I'm not part of that particular walk of life, but I did survive severe bullying myself. That's why I'm coming forward with something to say on the matter.

As far as I'm concerned, bullying someone (especially to death) for their orientation of race, religion or sexual orientation is a hate crime (and should be if it isn't).

I want to point out, if you are reading this and you are considering suicide because of bullying (and you are gay, lesbian, transgender, or questioning) you should contact the Trevor Project at 866- 4 U Trevor (866-488-7386). While you're at it, you should visit (CLICK IT!) and view videos of what people like you have to say. Or try my video:

Now, what if you are being bullied for some other reason? It's no less wrong and every bit as serious. I was bullied simply because I'm different. The bullies thought my odd reactions were hilarious and were willing to do anything to get them. No one knew about my Asperger's syndrome at the time, but that's purely academic. Wrong is wrong. I was poked with pins and pencils, knocked down stairs, shut part way in lockers by groups of kids, and walked home bloody two or three times a week. I had to plan escape routes every day. Junior High was hell. I failed 7th grade, and no wonder. I couldn't walk down the hall, sit in class, or anything without being taunted and tormented. You'd think it would get noticed right? HA! Think again. Let me tell you about the mindset I was dealing with... and it's still out there.

MAJORITY RULES: Teacher says: "Well, David, there are three of them and one of you, so who's story do you think get's believed? You should stop trying to get people in trouble." Bullies are conniving and know how to work the system. Somehow, in a sick twist of reality, majority means honesty. It's a numbers racket considering the bullies as "witnesses" rather than bullies. Three witnesses outweighs one, right? Never mind the fact that I was the child in tears and they were the ones with big ol smiles on their faces. How did that happen?

THE SQUEAKY WHEEL IS THE CULPRIT: So I'm sitting in class and the kid behind me stabs me in the back with a nice sharp pencil. Of course I cry out. Now, because of all the difficulties, I look like the "problem child", so any noise I make is automatically wrong. I get punished for disturbing class. The bully is practically in stitches trying not to fall out of his own desk laughing. Now on the flip side, I've also had kids call out "David stop it!" when nothing was happening, they still believed the bullies. I was thrown out of class a couple of times. Anyone still wondering how I failed 7th grade?

I considered suicide more times than I care to admit, but there it was. As of today, I don't believe in suicide. I have four great kids and a wonderful lady who loves me. I wouldn't have any of those things if I took my own life.

But it's hard. Being bullied makes you feel worthless and helpless. I contributes to conditions of depression. Imagine being in a deep dark hole that you can't climb out of. Passers by know you are there, but they won't help you. Instead, they mock you, laugh at you and occassionally throw something at you. You can't respond, you can't fight back or you are the one who is punished. You may as well be restrained for everyone's twisted pleasure. That's how wrong it feels. Now it's a matter of survival.

Yes there are programs for anti-bullying now, but more are still needed. I get stories all the time about our autistic kids getting bullied while teachers tell them to just suck it up. I'm sure it's the same for any victim no matter why they were bullied.

But, if you are being bullied, no matter who you are; don't take your own life. As they say, it does get better. You can overcome. And if you don't think you could call the numbers above, try 1-800-SUICIDE for the national suicide hotline.

Please know that you are not alone. Bullying has been around a long time and has many survivors and victims. We want you to survive. Pick up the phone, get online, call someone. Make contact! Don't give your life to the bullies. They aren't worth it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Moving makes changes

Yes, I'm moving. By June 15 I should be in Louisiana. It's been nice here in Wisconsin and I've met some good people. One of those people has become very important to my son and I. Important enough to move with her and start a new chapter in life.

Moving is change. Change is hard on the autistic most times. So it makes sense that you prepare your child for the change as much in advance as possible. I've shown my son all the positives of the move and referred to it as "our next big adventure". Those words work well for my little hero "adventurer". He relates well with those words. If it's an adventure, he's all for it.

Currently he's excited for the big move and is showing interest in how to pack things and wants to be helpful. I'm sure, once we get on the road in the big truck (that he's also excited about) he'll discover boredom and not be quite so excited. Well, that's the reality of moving, especially when you move about 900 miles. Our destination, the city of Monroe.

So, there will be an interruption of blogs at that time, and I will certainly update on our adventure and how the move has gone. What worked for my kiddo won't necessarily work for yours. You have to use the things that your child associates with. Favorite stores? Favorite kind of parks? What is in the new area that you know your child loves and is connected to? Well, I have to do some house cleaning, so enjoy your warmer days and we'll update soon.