Tender Moment from Tough Cops for Man with Autism
Note: Thank you to our Dan Burns for sharing this beautiful blog entry from Autism and Other Things by Robert Hughes Walker and his wife Ellen with us. I often use music to soothe my girls, especially my oldest daughter. When she is struggling, I start to sing "Sing," or "We're a Family," from Sesame Street. Hospitals can be anything but hospitable to people with autism. The bright lights, untrained staff, strange smells can be overwhelming. Please enjoy this lovely bit of salve in a world that is far too rough overall.
Please view the blog to see the photos. Worth the click.
By Walker's Mom, Ellen
As a dedicated Law & Order viewer, I’m very familiar with the good cop-bad cop bit detective teams use to wrangle the truth from a perp. But now, in real life, I have witnessed the amazing miracle a team of big-hearted police officers can work on a guy in serious trouble by using a good cop-good cop routine.
Hit with a severe paradoxical reaction to a med meant to calm him, Walker, our 33-yr-old gentle son with autism, suddenly was raging through the house, shouting, striking out. We called his psychiatrist and quickly headed off to a hospital for help. (Driving in the pouring rain in rush hour traffic with Walker beside himself, shouting and fighting, but I digress.)
The moment we entered Loyola Medical Center Emergency Room’s first sliding door, Walker grabbed me and bit my hand. Hard. Blood, a scream. And lots of police officers all at once.
Like all autism parents, especially those with jumpy, nonverbal, 6’3” guys like our son Walker, my husband Robert and I can easily imagine how things often go very wrong very quickly when the police get involved.
And here they were suddenly, a bunch of them with bullet-proof vests, badges, taser guns in holsters. About 5 grabbed Walker, held him, while another one took me to a nurse. We were reunited at Walker’s ER cubicle, with Walker now surrounded by 7 large officers, led by Sergeant Keith Miller.
Robert and I, sitting nearby, were overwhelmed with fear, sadness, you name it. Walker was contained. He needed help – blood tests, an EKG, calming meds – but was too wild and upset to accept it.
Then, things changed. When Walker jumped up from the examining table to escape, the policemen instantly turned it into a game.
“Walker gets up!” they cheered.
They helped him sit back down.
“Walker sits down.”
And he did.
“Walker scoots back.”
“Walker lies down.”
“High Fives All Around.”
And, amazingly, Walker smiled and High Fived every one of them.
Immediately, he tried to escape again.
So, the routine was repeated. Over and over again, more and more happily. Smiles all around, a bigger and bigger smile on Walker’s face. If an officer stepped out to handle some other problem, the rule was he had to get his High Five upon returning. Walker still wanted to leave. But he loved the game. Loved the officers.
Then, I heard them all sweetly singing. “Would you be mine, won’t you be mine, won’t you be my neighbor.” Even a little harmony in there. Walker was happy and relaxed. After a few more children’s songs, there came some James Brown and plenty of other cool stuff. Walker was not restrained, not bruised, not scared. He was befriended and delighted.
All seven officers stayed right there helping Walker for a couple of hours. Containing him, befriending him. Sergeant Miller, who clearly was essential to this success, dealt with issues throughout the hospital through his shoulder communications device while staying right by Walker’s side. Other officers left, arrived. The medical tests became fun and easy. Walker’s tension eased because he had friends, big guys like him, who liked him.
Later on, we were down to one officer as we waited overnight for an ambulance to nearby Riveredge, a psychiatric hospital, for extended meds reduction.
An ambulance. Before now, Walker had never been willing to:
1) get on a stretcher,
2) be strapped down,
3) get in an ambulance.
But the friendly police officer suggested it, and so this was fun, too.
It’s amazing what a team of highly-trained, combat-ready, loving policemen can do.
And now abide faith, hope, love...these three. But the greatest of these is love.
Posted by: Bryan | March 08, 2019 at 02:00 PM
I too am impressed with admiration and appreciation of this effort and the skill demonstrated, and am also impressed in another way with the toll pharma-first policies have taken.
Posted by: Jeannette Bishop | February 06, 2019 at 02:15 PM
And PS, yes, beautiful account, but I wish the circumstances weren’t necessary.
Posted by: annie | February 06, 2019 at 12:02 AM
Pathos is the “spread” of autism. So unfair!!!! I’ve love the brilliant people at AoA more then I can say!!!!!! Sometimes one (like me) just needs to shut up.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you AoA!!!!!!! You are everything! You are everything! You are everything!!!!
OK I’ll shut up now, but not before I say thank you one more time. THANK YOU!!!!!
Posted by: annie | February 05, 2019 at 11:58 PM
In fact, I had already said it - in my case I think it was the coffee had worn off, but you made an excellent complimentary point.
Posted by: John Stone | February 05, 2019 at 03:04 PM
Yeah, I figured that's what you meant, John. I got a little sidetracked...not enough coffee today! ;)
Posted by: Donna L. | February 05, 2019 at 02:33 PM
Yes, very good point that their families will be affected like everyone else's - but simply dealing with autistic incidents will becoming a significant part of their work, whereas not long ago they would never have heard of it.
Posted by: John Stone | February 05, 2019 at 01:47 PM
I agree with John, the rampant spread of autism does seem to be leading to a better understanding of the behaviors and how to better help these kids and adults. With autism prevalence as high as it is now, you have to think that many police officers and other first responders are uncles/aunts, grandparents, or even cousins and siblings to kids with autism now.
I've watched the shift in understanding over the past 15-20 yrs due to my son's frequent medical emergencies, and for the most part, more and more first responders and even some doctors and nurses are finally 'getting it' in regards to how to best treat our kids. Young paramedics now ask "Does he have a favorite comfort item to bring with?", "Will the sirens scare him/be too loud for him?", "Will the ambulance lights provoke another seizure?" Emergency room nurses ask if we'd like the light in the room turned off, and some automatically know enough to turn the volume down on beeping monitors.
A young police officer who helped us after a bad car accident stopped me when I tried to help my son out of the car and said, "Wait, he's gonna take off and run into traffic." That's know-it-in-your-bones autism awareness, not the stuff learned in a training session.
Things do seem to be looking better. What a shame, though, that most of the progress is probably due to firsthand/personal experience with kids with autism. Like Cia said awhile back, pretty soon all we'll have left are people with autism and people caring for people with autism.
Posted by: Donna L. | February 05, 2019 at 01:41 PM
Happy but sad that more are becoming more familiar with autism-the new norm.
Pharma For Prison
Posted by: Angus Files | February 05, 2019 at 12:11 PM
I suspect it is very much an off-shoot of the spread of autism that police are much better geared for dealing with it. Even in the U.K. - where policing techniques are quite different from the US - you used to hear of fatal incidents involving autistic people, basically because of misunderstanding, but now of course they encounter cases as part of their daily routine, and they are likely to be both skilled and compassionate. One good outcome of a tragic situation. This story is deep in pathos.
Posted by: John Stone | February 05, 2019 at 10:56 AM
Here's a follow up video: Running Man Challenge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKqOzMV_Hzc
Posted by: Dan E. Burns | February 05, 2019 at 10:35 AM
I would like to commend these officers who exercised good common sense with an abundance of compassion for all involved .. most notably Walker himself. Unfortunately the public rarely hears of police officers acting with compassion and common sense while responding to MILLIONS of calls for their assistance. As the proud grandfather of a strapping 6 foot, 230 lbs non-verbal autistic young man … I hope and pray ALL police officers are as well-trained and prepared to engage him with the same compassion, understanding and good nature as did those aiding Walker in his moment of need.
As a former police officer myself .. I hope there is video to show how these officers handled what could easily have become a tragedy to all involved .. and this video be incorporated into ALL POLICE DEPARTMENTS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY FOR DESPERATELY NEEDED TRAINING AND PREPAREDNESS FOR THE GROWING ADULT INTERACTIONS WITH AUTISTIC ADULTS AND THEIR FAMILIES.
I know from past experience … every time an officer is involved in a shooting incident .. that incident is used for training purposes .. to demonstrate what the officer did RIGHT .. and .. more importantly .. what the officer did WRONG. The same principle regarding incidents involving autistic community should prevail .. as the video of THIS incident would prove extremely educational in what these officers did RIGHT.
Posted by: Bob Moffit | February 05, 2019 at 08:53 AM
Great stuff! A short training module can produce fantastic results as well . Push the communication buttons the right way round so there is no need, reduced opportunity to set off the fire alarm? from combustable "Heavy Team "knee jerk reactions, ending with a petrified vulnerable person getting pinned to the floor etc with "very risky, brutal and outdated " immobilising physical restraints methods being used in panic from staff with a training deficency.
Running Man Challenge Compilation by police and fire departments You Tube
Aye Ready, Aye Laughing ! Nae problem at all !
No trauma teddies for autism required today ,thank you !
Posted by: Morag | February 05, 2019 at 08:22 AM
What a beautiful story to begin the day. Hurray for getting it right!!!
Posted by: Jill | February 05, 2019 at 07:12 AM