Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When an autistic person ages out

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This Article makes me sad and sickened. Here is a young adult with autism who happens to be a black male. He is 19 years old, but it does not sound like he is still in school. So what does he do? Hang out near a school in the middle of the day. Am I surprised? No.

Some areas have no services for young adults with autism. Some don't have stellar supports or any at all. In this case, it sounds like the mom just couldn't deal with or handle this kid at home. Maybe it would be different if mom had respite care and her son had adequate transitioning out of school. Being that this boy was only nineteen, his emotional and social ages are probably much younger.

Which makes me ask "Are you effing serious?". Sorry everyone, but you are going to face an explosion of cases just like this one as the autistic population, which is growing, starts to leave high school. Especially if these kids are minorities... especially if a child is from poverty... we are in trouble because we don't have enough help in place to handle this population when they become adults.

I read that article thinking that this could be my boy. Not freaking out because he's wantonly causing trouble and thinks "eff the police", but because he's freaked out by this stranger approaching him-- spraying pepper spray to subdue him (which is a dumb idea). Pepper spray versus a gun? Really? This is on top of already being agitated because he has nothing to do or misses school or his fish only takes is a small, even irrational trigger to put an autistic person over the edge if they are already under stress.

In my experience, the average person just doesn't understand Asperger's Syndrome or anyone with high functioning autism. Kids are labeled as "bad". There aren't a lot of trained specialists to work with this population. Parents often feel isolated and overwhelmed. Three words: Lack of support. Another three words: Lack of understanding.

As a society, we have blinders on when it comes to this population. This article is demonstration that we, as a society, refuse to take those blinders off. This boy reacted in a way that is typical of this population (albeit: we hope by age nineteen we've given them the skills to cope). He just happens to be an adult, black and a big, scary looking boy when he is reacting.

And a gun? C'mon. He was black... don't all black men carry guns? Really? The person who made the original 911 call was obviously biased, if not racist.

When this kid got that upset, he was not able to control himself. Pepper spray did not help. Trust me. Everyone who is an expert or parent of a child affected by autism will tell you. A child without the right supports, under the right conditions is as controllable under stress as a run-a-way freight train. You just have to ride it out until they hit a brick wall.

Let me be the first (or next) to say that this poor kid won't survive in jail. Not. at. all.

How can our justice system work appropriately if it does not understand autism? How can our society function appropriately if it doesn't understand autism. Get ready, America, because 1 in 100 children are autistic. That number is rising. If the trend continues (whatever that trend is), its going to be 1 in 50...then 1 in 25, then 1 in 10. Betcha when its one in 10, concessions will be made.

Or maybe when the first of the 1 in 100 population become adults and age out of public education based services, we are really in trouble. Without supports in place, cases like these will be an everyday event. High functioning autistic people are hard to pick out on first glance. Even on second glance, they can pass. Yet, make no mistake: Autism is real and this behavior is at its core.

But its okay, the budgets that fund services for people with disabilities have only been slashed considerably. We don't need services for this population anyway. All we need are prisons. Teach these incredibly bright population that have little social skills how to become criminals. We'll learn the hard way.

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