Managing Editor's Note: I extend a personal invitation to autism self advocates to reach out to Lost & Afraid through Age of Autism with their useful insight as to how to prevent the situation from escalating. Please leave a comment with your suggestions as to how to ensure a safe outcome for all. And for families like Lost & Afraid, perhaps the autistic self advocates at ASAN, including their leader Ari Ne'eman who sits on the IACC in DC can assist you. They are always concerned following a tragedy and I'm sure will have concrete resources and personal assistance to help their autistic brethren and sisters. You can reach them at [email protected]. Thank you.
I have a 16-year-old brother-in-law with severe autism, and he gets very violent on almost a daily basis. I didn't have any experience with autism before him, and my wife and mother-in-law seem to forget this, as now I'm not even allowed to say anything to him when he's doing something wrong. I've been accused of being at fault for his outbursts of violence, and I've been threatened by members of my wife's family with physical violence if they hear about me treating him that way again.
His father took his own life last year, and since then it's gotten worse and worse. Now this kid who can't even communicate that he has to go to the bathroom until he's shit his pants, has this huge emotional trauma to deal with. And since his mother had to go to work to provide for the family, my wife got stuck watching him almost every day, so now I have this violent person in my home at least four or five days a week. I fear for the safety of my one-year-old daughter, who he has already hit once before (and I got blamed for that incident). There are no resources for people in my position. I've tried doing research online about the link between autism and violence, and how to deal with it.
Everything I've found is useless.
Some of the articles sugar-coat the problem by coming out with statistics about how violence is only present in 3% of autistics. Well, that's fantastic for the other 97%, but what am I supposed to do the next time I get head-butted in the chest because I won't let him run out of my apartment before everyone else is ready to go? The rest of the articles I've found are terrifying, like the story of Trudy Steurnagel, who was beaten to death by her autistic son. I don't know what to do.
My wife and mother-in-law think that he'll come out of the autism to a degree, but I don't see it.
They're basing this hope on my sister-in-law coming out of her shell to a degree, but she only has Aspberger's and not full-blown autism. On top of that, in the eight years I've known him I've only ever seen him get worse. It has me wondering what would have to happen before they finally admit he's dangerous.
Does someone have to get seriously injured in one of his attacks? I'm trying not to resent him, but it's becoming increasingly difficult. His violent behavior towards everyone around him has me afraid for my daughter's safety. Because my wife is stuck watching him constantly, she can't get a job, and we're struggling financially. Any time I try to talk to her about the situation, I'm either met with hostility or silence.
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."
On March 4, the jury found Latson guilty of four charges, including assault of a law enforcement officer and wounding in the commission of a felony. On May 19, he is scheduled to appear before Stafford County Circuit Court Judge Charles Sharp, who can accept or reduce the jury's recommended sentence.
Last week, prosecutors tried Latson on a breaking-and-entering charge related to an incident in 2009. In that case, prosecutors said, Latson rang the doorbell at a teenager's home. When the teen opened the door, Latson hit him and followed him inside. Latson pleaded guilty to assault last year. On Thursday, he was found guilty of breaking and entering.
"I'm not here to try to paint a pretty story about my son," but he is not the violent individual that Stafford authorities have depicted, said Latson's mother, Lisa Alexander. "Neli is not a danger to society. He doesn't belong in jail. He belongs at home." Read the full article HERE.