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.