Kevin Hall understands the pros and cons of being labeled. And he knows that what really matters is doing your best.
By Kevin Hall Leave a Comment
Until just the other day, my wife and I consistently beat ourselves black and blue as parents. We figured that we weren’t doing (X, Y, Z) quite right. We thought maybe we were feeding our oldest son (a, b, c) when it should have been (e, f, g.)
From now on, our son will be “a boy with autism” instead of just a boy.
As it turns out, our eleven-year-old boy isn’t wired for social cues and empathy. We’ve known this intuitively for much of his life, we’ve heard it anecdotally from school teachers and principals. But I’ve been very reluctant to seek a diagnosis for him. I was branded bipolar by the medical model at age nineteen. It has left debilitating scars even if it has saved my life.
With our son’s brand-new diagnosis of autism comes understanding, explanation, and a world of forgiveness. All because of a simple word. But what has actually changed?
Absolutely nothing. He is the same boy. We are the same parents. We love him.
Absolutely everything. He is doing his best, with the wiring and tools he has. Sometimes his behavior doesn’t fit the world around him very well.
I can now see that my son has been doing an incredible job at school socially, given that he’s had to construct an intellectual model of social interactions and expectations. He doesn’t receive all the subtly coded non-verbal information that the rest of us do.
I can see that my wife and I have been good parents, that we might do well to ignore much of mainstream media parenting advice that never would have worked for him (other than the love bit.)
It didn’t always seem to them like I was doing my best. The label helped a lot though. We could describe some of my antics or apathy as disorder—not intentional disaster.
I can see that my son may have a life ahead of him on the razor’s edge of labels. There will be solidarity with an in-group, acceptance, and practical tools, while at the same time he is set apart from neuro-typical. (On this topic, I cannot recommend enough Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree.)
From now on, our son will be “a boy with autism” instead of just a boy. He will become aware that while he wants nothing more than to be “just another boy,” it will often serve him better to be a boy with a label.
As a manic depressive father, I am grateful that I have twenty-five years of experience walking this knife-edge of identities. As his life gets more complicated, I may be able to help my son navigate ambiguous terrain better than I otherwise would have. I hope so.
A while ago I was enjoying the podcast of a conversation between Alanis Morissette and another guest. Things got a little heated. They chose to agree to disagree about whether it was right to say that everybody was “doing their best.” They did this so that they could move the podcast along. Alanis was advocating the perspective that people were always doing their best, that some behaviors betrayed less-than-optimal natures or nurtures, or trauma, or all three.
I’ve lived with manic depression since I was in college. My family has had to support me through some rough patches. It didn’t always seem to them like I was doing my best. The label helped a lot though. We could describe some of my antics or apathy as disorder—not intentional disaster.
I’ve only ever yelled at my sister once as an adult, when she said, “I know you want to not have to be responsible for that time ….” I jumped down her throat and screamed that I wanted nothing in the world more than to have been able to be responsible for that time.
We agreed to disagree.
For a thrilling way to bracket one end of the “doing their best debate”, check out neuroscientist Sam Harris’s position that free will itself is illusory. From that starting point, you can’t even ask the question whether someone is doing their best.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Western capitalist ethos, which tries to suggest you always get what you deserve. We admire so many of its tenets that we sometimes forget they don’t apply to all walks of life.
Where do you stand on the “Everybody is doing their best” spectrum?
Before Josh, 36, arrived at First Place Transition Academy, he had never taken public transportation on his own, much less held down a paying job. But a new pilot program is empowering adults with autism to overcome hurdles to independence. Special correspondent John Donvan, co-author with Caren Zucker of “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism,” reports from Phoenix.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tonight, we begin an occasional series about people living with autism and other spectrum disorders, A Place in the World.
While reporting the history of autism for their book, “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism,” co-authors John Donvan and Caren Zucker found a program in Phoenix, Arizona, that expands options for people living with autism.
This is the first of two reports.
JOHN DONVAN, Co-Author, “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism”: Why is it a big deal that Josh Kluger gets up every morning and makes his own breakfast and straightens up the place a little, and then remembers, belatedly to go back and grab his lunch before he heads off to work, which takes a quarter-mile hike, texting all the way, before he reaches the bus stop, and then a 45-minute trip with one transfer along the way?
And when I comes on board and Josh shows me how to swipe my ticket, why is that a big deal? Because, until last year, Josh had experienced none of this. No apartment. No paying job. No bus pass even. Actually, he’d never ridden a bus on his own before last year.
How old are you now?
JOSH KLUGER, Student, First Place: I’m 36.
JOHN DONVAN: You only really began being able to ride the bus when you were already over 30?
JOSH KLUGER: I think so, yes.
JOHN DONVAN: What did you have to learn?
JOSH KLUGER: I know learned how — streets.
JOHN DONVAN: And though Josh is not the chattiest person around, except perhaps when he’s texting, you can tell from his stride and from his air of confidence about where he’s heading that Josh really likes the life he has right now.
Is this ours?
JOSH KLUGER: Yes.
JOHN DONVAN: OK.
JOHN DONVAN: And that he’s going to keep going with it, autism or not.
JOHN DONVAN: With autism, it’s usually been the kids whose faces we see when the topic is discussed, children like these. We root for their success in school and on the playground, and we have come to recognize that even a little boy like this one, who may look disconnected, and whose autism keeps him from speaking many words, nevertheless can sing and therefore also has something to say.
Boy (singing): Never give up on wishes.
JOHN DONVAN: But the kids grow up inevitably, so that the boys whose photo you just saw, they have become these men.
We gathered them together to make a point. This one is now 19-year-old Dylan. And this little boy called Stuart, he is now 22.
Josh, you have met. He is 36. This kid, he is 21 now and named Ian. Craig, he’s a 26-year-old now. And Jake, he grew into a man also. He’s 22.
And the point is, adults don’t get nearly the attention and support the kids do, maybe because they’re not as cute or because people forget that autism is lifelong. But it is. And that fact is the driving idea behind a new pilot program called First Place Transition Academy, located in Phoenix, Arizona, in which these same young men are today the pioneers.
WOMAN: Are you going to mix it? Where would you find that?
MAN: In the store.
WOMAN: In the store?
JOHN DONVAN: There are nine of them in all, paired off together in a cluster of apartments in a complex where their neighbors are mostly retirees who have no autism connection.
They eat together and learn together, two years of specialized training designed to improve their odds of having, let’s call it, a successful adulthood, which means what?
IAN MCCOY, Student, First Place: What doughnuts would you like for that one?
JOHN DONVAN: Well, take Ian, who is now holding down a paying job arranged for by the program, showing that he can be good at customer service.
IAN MCCOY: I got the lemonade and morning buzz.
JOHN DONVAN: Social interactions can be enormously challenging for people on the spectrum. That’s part of the reason that unemployment among autistic adults hovers near 80 percent.
IAN MCCOY: Hello. How’s it going?
MAN: Pretty good, I guess.
JOHN DONVAN: Not long ago, that included Ian, who is an unfailing optimist.
Before you came here, where were you? Were you in high school?
IAN MCCOY: I was in my parents’ house for at least two years. I enrolled. Here I am now a year later. I am satisfied with my future.
JOHN DONVAN: What is your future? Do you know?
IAN MCCOY: It’s hard to predict right now.
JOHN DONVAN: Sure. Sure.
IAN MCCOY: It’s a brief idea. I would like to live in an apartment, pay my own rent, have my own car and have a career, in other words, because I’m — the part-time job is kind of tedious, but it’s my main focus for now.
JOHN DONVAN: Well, that’s all about learning how to do jobs, right?
IAN MCCOY: Absolutely, yes.
JOHN DONVAN: The other men go to other workplaces, a garden that raises produce for sales to restaurants.
IAN MCCOY: An animal shelter which happens to be a volunteer job, but that doesn’t matter. Knowing how to be professionally responsible and productive does, like being on time for work, dressing correctly for the situation, completing tasks assigned reliably.
These are learned skills that do not necessarily come easily to all members of the group because of their autism.
BRAD HERRON-VALENZUELA, Gateway Community College: So, on the worksheet, guys, you are putting a check mark for the items that you’re going to need to purchase in your first apartment.
JOHN DONVAN: And support staff literally imparts lessons on the logistics of adult life, like this session held in a lecture hall made available by Gateway Community College. It’s a class on how to navigate the options available in public transport, how to get from here to there, with quizzes.
MAN: Exact fare required.
MAN: Exact fare required.
JOHN DONVAN: When it comes to successful adulthood, it’s this sort of mundane-seeming know-how that can in fact be crucial.
How important is that to their success in this program?
BRAD HERRON-VALENZUELA: Yes, it’s critical. And it’s one of the skills that we target really early on. I mean, again, this is the thing that’s going to allow them to access employment. It’s going to allow them to access different social activities, different quality of life things.
JOHN DONVAN: So getting around is key to independence?
JOHN DONVAN: Which brings us back to Josh. That 45-minute commute of his landed us here.
So this is your place of work, huh?
JOSH KLUGER: Yes.
JOHN DONVAN: Wow.
Josh works for the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. He and another member of the group named Jake, they have been cycling through a variety of jobs here, some in the office upstairs, and now they’re getting their hands dirty with grounds maintenance.
Josh, you’re not a big baseball fan.
JOSH KLUGER: I’m not.
JOHN DONVAN: But you’re a work fan. It sounds like you really love this job.
JOSH KLUGER: In a way.
JOHN DONVAN: In a way. Oh.
JOHN DONVAN: OK. But he loves being a working man, even though his boss here, Marian Rhodes, says it has not always been smooth.
MARIAN RHODES, Executive, Arizona Diamondbacks: He had a thing with his badge, that he was losing his badge constantly. I said, where’s your badge? And he’s like, I left it here, whatever.
And I said — I had to explain to him, your badge is like the key to your home. That’s the key to our ballpark. So, if you lose it, someone has the key to access our building at any time. And I said, so what’s the answer here? We now have him drop the badge off in the morning and pick the badge up. And so he hasn’t — now he is always clocked in and clocked out.
JOHN DONVAN: But that’s what learning is about.
Are you willing to let these guys make mistakes more than you would other people?
MARIAN RHODES: Definitely.
JOHN DONVAN: Yes?
MARIAN RHODES: Definitely.
JOHN DONVAN: Why is that important?
MARIAN RHODES: Because you have to meet them where they are.
JOHN DONVAN: Josh’s mom has been astounded by the change she’s seen in the past 12 months.
BONNIE KLUGER, Mother of Josh Kluger: There are so many ways that he has changed and grown, that he’s going to school, he’s learning classes. He’s taking responsibilities for his homework. He’s taking responsibility for his budgeting.
JOHN DONVAN: This is all new?
BONNIE KLUGER: This is all new.
JOHN DONVAN: This is something he learned as a middle-aged man?
BONNIE KLUGER: As a middle-aged man.
JOHN DONVAN: Wow.
BONNIE KLUGER: The growth has been amazing. It’s really been amazing.
JOHN DONVAN: If Josh were not here, where would he be in life?
BONNIE KLUGER: At our house, doing probably the same thing, and not being very happy. And I don’t know what his future would have been.
JOHN DONVAN: And back at the apartment complex, you can see how these guys, some of whom had no friends to speak of before in their lives, are learning to help each other out.
They are, in short, a community. And while this pilot project has enrolled only men, who today make up roughly 80 percent of people recognized as autistic, the full program will grow to include women as well.
But now something needs to be said as that group shot we started with, and in particular about the man on the lower right. He was once that singing boy, and, in fact, he doesn’t live with the other men. He can’t, because his autism affects him differently from the others. But there is a place being built in Phoenix that will also have room for him.
Celebrity Kim Raver reads about autism to children. Many autism advocates are happy with the new core training for teachers that includes handling students with autism.
(Photo : Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
Teachers will now be trained how to support their students diagnosed with autism. This is the fruit of the efforts made by campaigning for months from parents, charities and MPs.
According to the reports from Telegraph UK, the campaign emerged after the rising number of children with autism in schools, with more than 1 in 100 children on the autism spectrum and over 70 percent of them going to mainstream schools. Eventually, with this number, every teacher will have children with autism in their classes.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan personally helped campaign for these teachers to have a proper training on handling and supporting students with autism or those with special needs. As told by a government source to the Daily Telegraph, “Mrs. Morgan approached the chair of the initial teach training review, Stephen Munday, and personally raised the issue of including training on special educational seeds (SEN), especially autism, as key part of training.”
Mrs. Morgan is passionate about the issue and she recommended that this training should be part of the core content that the teachers should follow.
Autism for the most part presents learning difficulties that could be serious and these children’s parents worry that their child is not understood nor supported properly by teachers who does not have training regarding how to handle the condition in their students.
The over 7,000 people who signed the joint letter for this request of training for the teachers are very happy that the government has finally listened to their plea. These MPs and school staff are to thank for as they believe that every child with autism will need a teacher who understands them.
This handling training though is not made mandatory. Some of the teachers will not have any special education needs training at all.
A teacher need not be an expert on autism, but if they have a general knowledge of the condition, they will be able to help support and understand the child. It will surely make a difference in a child’s life.
Toni Braxton’s opened up about very personal elements in her life including writing her memoir, where she claimed that God had given her son Diezel autism as punishment for her having an abortion.
“I’m one of the lucky parents. Early diagnosis changes everything. My son Diezel was off the spectrum being autistic. (Autism activist) Suzanne Wright, who unfortunately just passed, she called me immediately and said, ‘Get him in this programme, do this, do that’. She’s been an advocate and helped me so much; I miss her already, I can’t believe she’s gone,” Toni said.
“He’s our social butterfly,” she continued. “He’s the one who plays with friends and hangs out all the time. Very, very fortunate. And I don’t like to think there’s anything wrong with our babies. I just think they learn differently,” she said.
Braxton said Diezel has benefitted from being in multiple programs thanks to the late founder of Autism Speaks, Susan McBride.
“When she found out about my son she called me immediately and said ‘Get him in this program. Do this, do that.’ She’s been an advocate in helping me so much,” Toni said. “I miss her already. I mean, I can’t believe she’s gone.”
Braxton, who suffers from her own condition of Lupus, said her upcoming tour will be “challenging” but she’s excited about the “adrenaline” of interacting with her fans.
Kennedy LeRoy, a 16-year-old young man with Asperger syndrome, tragically took his own life last Friday, after years of being bullied at school, according to a two-page note he left behind. Kennedy’s parents say his goal in life was to help others.
“Maybe my death will make people realize that words can hurt as much as, if not more than, physical blows,” the note said.
His family is hoping his story and note will help educate students and prevent other suicides as a result.
If you know someone who may be the victim of bullying, Autism Speaks has resources available to help prevent and respond to these incidents so that families like Kennedy’s never have to experience such tragedy.
Autism Speaks worked with the National Center for Learning Disabilities, PACER’s National Bullying Center and Ability Path in partnership with the documentary film “Bully” to raise awareness about how bullying affects children with special needs.
Learn more about our bullying resources through our Combating Bullying web portal which includes a Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit full of resources and information specifically tailored to parents, educators and students dealing with bullying.
A blue, dinosaur-printed pouch, carried by Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore’s PM on a state visit to the White House, has stolen the limelight.
Not exactly known as a fashion trailblazer, Ho Ching, the CEO of Temasek and the wife of Singaporean prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, sparked a fashion craze this week. Arriving in Washington on Aug. 2 for a historic state visit, the 63-year-old executive, listed among the most powerful women in the world by Forbes, raised eyebrows when she accessorized her gold and black pantsuit with a goofy, dinosaur-flecked denim pouch sold online for $11 (SGD $14.80).
“[She] is known to be very down to earth and practical and the fact that she carries a less than $20 Singapore dollars pouch to such a world stage event shows she is really confident and authentic.”
Ms Ho originally faced much criticism online for her choice in outfit, with netizens quick to point out the difference in dressing between Mrs Obama and Ms Ho.
“[She] really could have chose something, well, more cheery,” Dr Siew Tuck Wah, an aesthetics doctor said on Facebook. “We need to get a stylist for her please.”
The Pathlight website describes Mr Seetoh as being “extremely pedantic about dinosaurs”, with the illustrations drawn from his personal knowledge.
The pouch’s designer is 19-year-old student See Toh Sheng Jie, who attends the Art Faculty by Pathlight, a school in Singapore that nurtures artistic talents of kids with autism and special needs. As his father, Jason, explains in the video below, Sheng Jie has trouble concentrating; drawing and moulding anatomically accurate dinosaurs is the only thing that gets him to focus. The school makes bags, wallets, notebooks and cards with Sheng Jie’s dinosaur drawings to showcase his talents.
The school was caught by surprise at Ching’s choice and was unprepared for the fashionistas clamoring for what is now a world famous dino-purse. The school sold all 200 bags it had in stock in 24 hours.
“The school texted us saying, ‘Madame Ho Ching brought Sheng Jie’s bag to the White House.’ Actually we thought they were joking until we saw the news,” beams Jie’s father. “We were very surprised.”
When Sarah’s son Robbie was diagnosed with autism, aged four, she swore she would always protect and care for him. But 10 years on, she is in need of protection herself
‘The tension in our house now is constant. If Robbie does hit me when I’m alone I curl up in a ball on the floor and try to protect my face.’
By Joan McFadden
Admitting that I’m scared of my son is almost impossible and no one knows all the details of our life behind closed doors. I’m small and very slight and Robbie is now nearly 6 feet tall and quite solid so he can inflict a lot of damage on me if my husband David isn’t there to stop it. The first time Robbie hurt me he was 11 and I’m still not convinced it was deliberate. We’d had a week of terrible weather and on the Sunday we decided to take the boys to a museum.
We rarely do things as a family, as Robbie needs so much attention that his brother Joe ends up upset and frustrated, but we thought if we went early in the morning there wouldn’t be many people there. The first half hour was peaceful and David suggested he went to get coffees as we didn’t want to risk going to the cafe in case Robbie had a screaming fit. Two minutes later a big noisy family group came in and within seconds Robbie lost it, screaming and throwing himself on the floor.
Joe turned his back and I tried to calm Robbie while the family gazed at us in horror. Robbie was thrashing around and I was trying to put my arms round him, a mix of consoling and restraining, and he punched me right on the nose. I could feel it crack and I literally saw stars, something I’d never thought was real. Tears were pouring from my eyes through sheer shock and I could feel my nose starting to bleed. One of the older men said something like “Young man stop this at once!” but that meant nothing to Robbie, who punched me in the head over and over. All these people gathered round us but obviously had no idea what to do and then David appeared and dropped both cups of coffee all over the floor as he rushed to grab Robbie. It was utter, humiliating pandemonium, with one of the men shouting at David that Robbie needed a good hard smack and David shouting back “You stupid bastard, he’s autistic!”
All the way back to the car David held Robbie like a prisoner and Joe just said over and over, “I hate him. I wish he wasn’t my brother.”
It took us all weeks to recover. I had two black eyes and my nose and cheeks were bruised. Neither Joe nor David could look at me properly until my face was better. David was worried about me being in the house alone with Robbie when he came home from school but he has to work as I gave up my job to be at home with the boys.
When Robbie was a toddler he was cute, with a solemn little face and curly blond hair. He was quite controllable at that point as I could remove him from any difficult situation easily. When Joe was born my sister helped a lot, as Robbie clearly hated the change to his routine with the arrival of the baby. When he was formally diagnosed I thought support would be put in place to help us all. I was really naive and assumed there would be help available as soon as I asked for it, but I now think something was only done because I turned up in such a state and they could see the damage he’d caused. I believe that they only worry that we might harm or kill him and have no concern that one day he might actually kill me. We now live in fear of that couple of days respite being withdrawn for any reason so I would never, ever rock the boat by asking for more, unless things got really desperate. There’s very little respite care available, even if you can afford to pay for it privately, which we can’t. I also know from people in the same situation that it’s impossible even to hope that Robbie will be able to move into some sort of long-term care. There’s no money and hardly any places. No one sees us as important.
We were grief-stricken at his diagnosis but each had a different reaction. David wanted to find out everything about the condition in the hope of a cure. I just wanted someone to tell me that with the right approach he could still have a lovely life.
We came home and Joe was toddling round the living room, laughing at my sister tickling him and gleeful to see us. Robbie was tired and started banging his head off the wall and making the strange screeching noise that indicates he’s very distressed and might take hours to calm down. I burst into tears and David walked out of the room and slammed the door.
Severe autism is difficult to understand if you don’t live with it. Everything we do is centred on Robbie’s condition, which is really hard on Joe. Our house is like a minimalist fortress with every window and door bolted, anything potentially dangerous shut away and even ornaments or pictures taken down now. The third time Robbie swept his hand across the mantelpiece and shattered everything on it I decided it wasn’t worth the bother. Robbie won’t sleep by himself and although David takes his turn at sleeping with him through the weekend, I’m completely shattered most of the time as Robbie wakes if I move at all. I can’t sleep properly and I wake constantly because I’m stiff and sore from lying in one position.
I asked about respite care and was told sharply it was unlikely because Robbie was loved, cared for and in no danger
The hitting started again six months ago, when he’d just turned 14. There had been a lot of tension with him at school and I’d been in and out for countless meetings. That’s frustrating because these people are meant to be professionals and trained to deal with children like him but it all came back to us and I felt judged because if his behaviour.
I asked about respite care and was told quite sharply that it was unlikely because Robbie was loved and cared for, and not in any danger. Two days later he followed me around the house, coming up close to me, making a humming noise. He does this to David sometimes, or to strangers, and David hates it – he says he does it on purpose to irritate but I don’t actually think Robbie knows how to annoy someone deliberately – but he never normally does it to me. Then he beat me up. He punched me over and over in the face, coming after me when I tried to get away and constantly hitting me as I tried to defend myself. Then he just stopped, sat down on the couch and started leafing through a store catalogue. I was scared to move in case he started again and just lay huddled on the floor till David and Joe came in. My lip was so badly burst I needed stitches and again my face was a mess.
That was the end of any sort of relationship between my sons. Joe hates Robbie and won’t listen to us trying to explain how frustrated he is at being unable to communicate and that is why he’s violent and also self harms. The tension in our house now is constant. David goes into work early as Robbie seems calmer in the mornings and goes to school all right, but after school is hard.
David tries to get home with Joe just half an hour after Robbie is dropped off. I’m always on edge. If Robbie does hit me when I’m alone I curl up in a ball on the floor and try to protect my face, and if David’s in he physically stops him and shuts him into his bedroom. He lashes out at David but he’s taller and bigger than Robbie, so he can hold him back. Joe goes to afterschool care so he doesn’t get in the middle of any violence.
So far we’ve managed to avoid Robbie attempting to hit his brother and Joe watches with complete disgust if Robbie starts self-harming. He told me last week that he wishes Robbie would die, which broke my heart because I know Robbie only hurts me because he is in such pain himself.
I went to the social work department with my battered face and begged for help which is why we now get the two nights of respite every six weeks. I couldn’t tell anyone else he was attacking me but then he tried to hit my sister so she can’t babysit anymore and David and I never go out as a couple, as we devote all our time to Joe during respite. I live from respite to respite and I never think about the future because that’s the only way I can cope with this life sentence.
As told to Joan McFadden.
Names have been changed. Information: autism.org.uk, helpline 0808 800 4104
Cellphone video shows the man on ground with hands in the air
As the worker lays there, the autistic man continues to play with his toy
There’s no indication a weapon of any type was found at the scene
Video shows the scene before and after caretaker Charles Kinsey is shot. He is shown lying in the street with a 23-year-old autistic man before being hit by a bullet from an assault rifle fired by a North Miami police officer. Provided by Hilton Napoleon
By Charles Rabin
When a 23-year-old autistic man carrying a toy truck wandered from a mental health center out into the street Monday, a worker there named Charles Kinsey went to retrieve him.
A few minutes later the autistic man was still sitting cross-legged blocking the roadway while playing with the small, rectangular white toy. And Kinsey was prone on the ground next to him — a bullet from an assault rifle fired by a police officer having struck his leg.
“He throws his hands up in the air and says, ‘Don’t shoot me.’ They say lie on the ground, so he does,” Kinsey’s attorney Hilton Napoleon said Wednesday. “He’s on his back with his hands in the air trying to convince the other guy to lie down. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Cellphone video footage obtained by Napoleon clearly shows the heavy-set autistic man sitting and playing with his toy while Kinsey, dressed in a yellow shirt and shorts, obeys police orders to lie down on his back.
The video, taken before the officer fired his weapon, shows Kinsey on his back with his hands in the air telling police he didn’t have a weapon and asking them not to fire. At one point the autistic man appears to yell at Kinsey to shut up. A second brief video shows officers who are carrying rifles physically patting down Kinsey and the autistic man while they are lying on the ground.
In an interview with WSVN-Channel 7, Kinsey said that after he was shot, officers approached and flipped him over and handcuffed him.
“Sir, there’s no need for firearms,” Kinsey told the news station he said to police before he was shot. “It was so surprising. It was like a mosquito bite.”
Kinsey said when he asked the officer why he fired his weapon, the cop responded, “I don’t know.”
By Wednesday, North Miami police hadn’t offered much of an explanation. Assistant Police Chief Neal Cuevas said the investigation has been turned over to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
Cuevas said officers received a 911 call indicating a man was in the street with a gun threatening to kill himself. They responded to Northeast 127th Street and about 14th Avenue and began barking orders. When the autistic man didn’t comply, an officer fired three times, striking Kinsey once in the leg. He was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Cuevas said he didn’t know who the officer was aiming at when he struck Kinsey. The offier’s name hasn’t been released.
In a prepared statement, North Miami police spokeswoman Natalie Buissereth said “arriving officers attempted to negotiate with the two men on the scene, one of whom was later identified as suffering from autism… At some point during the on-scene negotiation, one of the responding officers discharged his weapon.”
Police still hadn’t released any paperwork or the incident report of the shooting by Wednesday. There is no indication that a weapon of any kind was found. The officer who fired his weapon has been placed on administrative leave, as is standard, for at least a week.
Kinsey, 47, who’s worked at MacTown Panther Group Homes for a little over a year, wasn’t badly injured and is expected to be home by Thursday.
By Wednesday, Napoleon said he was already negotiating a possible settlement with the city of North Miami.
“They realize this was something inappropriate regarding the shooting,” he said. “If police departments come out more and admit fault, that would probably go a long way,” toward improving relations with the public, he said.
The incident highlights how explosive a situation can get when cops already on edge are forced to confront someone with autism or a mental disability.
In dealing with the mentally ill, experts say, those dangers only multiply.
“I was more worried about him than myself,” Kinsey told Channel 7 of the autistic man, whose name hasn’t been released.
Said his wife Joyce Kinsey: “I’m just grateful he’s alive and able to tell his story.”
Like most parents of children with autism, I have been reading about the family in California who is being sued by several families in their neighborhood. The lawsuit contends that their child is a public nuisance because of his behaviors that his parents failed to fix.
One of the plaintiffs in this case stated “This is not about autism. This is about public safety.”
But he is wrong. This is absolutely about autism. It’s just not about the autism people hear about.
The media shows us all of the feel-good stories, like the child with autism who gets to be the manager of the high school basketball team, or the boy with autism who goes to the prom with the beautiful girl, or the girl with autism who is voted onto the homecoming court. We light it up blue every April and pat ourselves on the back for being so aware.
But we aren’t aware.
Because for every boy with autism who manages his high school basketball team, there are 20 boys with autism who smear feces. And for every girl with autism who gets to be on the homecoming court, there are 30 girls with autism who pull out their hair and bite their arms until they bleed. And for every boy with autism who gets to go the prom, there are 50 boys with autism who hit and kick and bite and hurt other people.
This is the autism that no one talks about. This is the autism that no one wants to see.
We aren’t aware.
One of the plaintiffs said “We’re not upset about him being autistic. We are concerned and upset about his violence (toward) our children.”
There is no way to be upset by this child’s behaviors and not be upset about autism.
Autism and behaviors go hand-in-hand. Why? The behaviors are communication. Individuals with autism often can’t communicate in a way that typically functioning people can understand. So they do things to get their needs met. And often the things they do are scary and violent.
We aren’t aware.
My son, who is the same age as the child in this story, was extremely aggressive when he was younger. He did all of the things that the child involved in this lawsuit did. My son ran after other children on the playground just to push them down. He hit. He kicked. He bit. He pulled hair. And I never knew what was coming. For the longest time, I would flinch when he ran up to me…I didn’t know whether he was going to hug me or hit me. Can you imagine, as a mom, what that’s like? To flinch when your child runs to you?
We aren’t aware.
Because I didn’t know what my son was going to do to other children, we stopped going to the park. We stopped going to the Mommy and Me class at the library. We started going to the grocery store at 6:00 a.m. when most people weren’t around. He didn’t go to daycare but had a sitter at home so he wouldn’t be around other kids in a daycare setting. I essentially isolated him in order to keep other people safe. Can you imagine what it’s like to be a mom and not be able to take your child to the park? Or have your child attend birthday parties? Or have play dates?
We aren’t aware.
Because of my need to isolate my son, I also isolated myself too. I watched from my window as other moms in the neighborhood sat in their camp chairs and chatted while their children played. I couldn’t join them because my son couldn’t be around the other kids. Once a mom asked if my son could come to their house and play with her son. Can you imagine what it was like to feel so excited and then feel so ashamed when, after explaining my son’s issues to her so she would be aware, that invitation was rescinded?
We aren’t aware. Not at all.
But we can be. We can open our eyes and understand that autism isn’t all about the high functioning child who is “quirky” but OK to be around. Autism isn’t all about the six-year-old who can play Piano Man better than Billy Joel. Autism can be hard. Autism can be sad. Autism can be messy. Autism can be violent. Autism can be isolating.
Once we become really aware, lawsuits like this won’t happen. Why? Because instead of putting blue lights on our front porches, we will go outside with our kids and we will help them play together…typically functioning kids and kids with autism. We will get to know our neighbors and we will embrace the children with behaviors and embrace their parents along with them.
We will learn what things trigger our child’s classmate who has autism so that we can help the children interact while avoiding things that will cause aggression. We will be a true village, including those who can model appropriate behaviors and those who are trying so hard to learn them. We will work on teaching our children not to hit and how to avoid being hit.
The parents involved in this lawsuit, on both sides, need to do more. More education, more understanding, more inclusion and more involvement.
Now tell me, is autism the real public nuisance?
We can become aware … if we really want to.
This post originally appeared on www.huffingtonpost.com
Teacher Ruth Clarkson of Lansbury Bridge School & Sports College wrote a touching letter to an 11-year-old boy with autism after he failed his SAT exams. Named Ben Twist, the boy recently took his SAT exams, and even though he did his best, the results weren’t what he was expecting. Mrs. Clarkson took to consideration that exams aren’t everything and wrote that in a touching letter to the boy.
The teacher pointed out that Ben has many other talents that aren’t measured in these tests. Those include his artistic talents, his abilities in sport, his musical ability, his kindness, his growing independence, and much more. After Bens mother, Gail Twist, read the letter she was left in tears. She found it so touching she posted a photo of the letter on Twitter with the caption “In tears. A letter to my 11 yr old autistic son from his school. “These tests only measure a little bit of you”.