Autism, Crowds and Being Lost

Those of us who are aware of autism and its symptoms know that individuals with autism often have a hard time dealing with social situations and interacting with others.  They can become frightened or overwhelmed when encountering strangers.

If an individual with autism is in a crowd – such as in a mall or an amusement park or airport – and gets lost or confused, there are numerous ramifications.  For instance, the individual might hide because they are so frightened or confused. 

There are other situations, too, for instance, the individual might not be totally aware of what is happening, or even aware of the fact that people are looking for them.  Add some security guards or police to the mix and there is a potential for things to go very wrong very fast – not because it is anyone’s fault, but because there is a gap in communication and there are too many unknowns on both sides.

There have been numerous articles lately about individuals with autism who have been tasered by the police because they did not heed the command to stop whatever they were doing nor did they speak when spoken to.  This is a critical issue because many individuals with autism are not able to speak, and, as a result, if an officer asks them a question, they would not be able to answer.  Too often, the police are not trained in this area; therefore, they are not able to identify the fact that an individual has autism.  When the individual does not answer, the officer or officers might think that the individual is being disrespectful and that’s when many of the problems start that lead to tasering and the like.  In situations where the individual with autism tries to run away to hide, the results are often the same.

It is important that these issues be dealt with through training for officers and the public, as well as assistance for parents, family and caregivers of individuals with autism.  Officers need to know how to identify individuals with autism and treat them with care, as well as knowing how to contact parents. 

It has been suggested that individuals with autism have identification available that is similar to medical identification bracelets or necklaces – that are large enough to be seen – and wear them when out so as to avoid confusion or unwarranted attacks by officers or others.  This – or something like it – may or may not be the right idea for you or your family, depending on the circumstances and the way that you feel about it.

It is clear that some sort of training and assistance is warranted so that in the face of these types of situations, the least amount of trauma takes place for all persons involved.

Entry Filed under: Common Symptoms

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