From The Washington Post, a frank look at the reality of autism for thousands of families. As the teens with autism age out this problem is going to grow. Cute little boys who punch are a far cry from adult men (and women) who can injure and even kill. Ask Trudy Steuernagel. We need better treatments so that our boys and girls, men and women on the spectrum receive proper care. We need to train law enforcement. And we need a national alarm to sound that the autism epidemic is very real. The coming years will bring grave challenges. Violent does not mean criminal - but is our system able to tell the difference? And how do we teach and protect our kids from the backlash?
In Va. assault case, anxious parents recognize 'dark side of autism'
The issue resonates not only with parents but with police. Every year, the International Association of Chiefs of Police picks one major issue to address at a national summit. In 2010, it was improving police response to people with mental illness and such conditions as autism.
"It has been a huge and significant part of our conversation in the last couple of years," said John Firman, director of research for the organization.
Firman, who participates in the Big Brother program, has a "little brother" with Asperger's. He said that when he goes out with the youngster, he sometimes wonders, "If anything would happen here, how would police deal with him?"
Among the summit's recommendations, Firman said, were that all officers be trained in how to deal with such people and that police work closely with families and community organizations.
Latson's case, however, was not a matter of a law enforcement officer being untrained, the prosecutor said. "This deputy has a 33-year-old mentally retarded child," Olsen said. "So the deputy is very sensitive to dealing with children with disabilities. He's lived it every day for the last 33 years."