Tag Archives: safety

How much risk is too much?

In a comment to Lisa Jo Rudy’s brief examination of some of the issues in the autism-vaccine debate, Dadvocate had this to say:

Rather, it is that some, in their zeal to promote public health may be erroneously accepting a level of adverse reaction risk that is too high (and possibly avoidable by reverting to a more conservative schedule)….

The obvious (to me) question from this is, “Given that the current vaccine schedule results in an unacceptably high risk of autism in vaccinated children, what level of risk is acceptable? If the current risk is 1-in-150 (which, I should note is actually the prevalence and not the odds of being autistic), what risk is acceptable? 1-in-500? 1-in-1000? 1-in 10,000? None?”

This question is really for those who believe that vaccines are to blame for autism, and is but one strand in a much more complex thread. Among other things, the risk of individuals becoming autistic would need to be weighed against the risk to the public at large of reducing vaccinations.

At the risk of retreading old ground, exactly where do you think the balancing point would be between protection of individuals from autism and protection of society from communicable diseases? (If you don’t think this is a valid question, by all means let me know. I’m interested in that possibility as well.)

Autism and New Jersey law enforcement

Over the weekend, Kristina Chew wrote about yet another tasing of an autistic teenager, and mentions a bill in New Jersey to promote autism training for first responders. While that bill makes its way through the New Jersey state legislature, first responders in Hillsborough, NJ are taking the initiative getting the training for themselves.

From Cops learn about autism to help prevent tragedy:

With more than 1,200 children and adults diagnosed with autism in the township — and thousands more in neighboring communities — Hillsborough police officers are reaching out to better serve those families during serious law-enforcement situations.

Hillsborough police Chief Paul Kaminsky recently participated in a four-hour seminar, “Autism Shield Program for Autism Recognition and Response.” Its goal: To educate police officers and first-responders with an awareness and understanding of autism and how to teach and live with those affected, said Gary Weitzen, executive director of Parents of Autistic Children, also known as POAC.

Some thoughts from Chief Kaminsky and what his department is trying to do:

“All of our officers (there are 56 law-enforcement officers in the Hillsborough Police Department) have been trained concerning identifying and dealing with individuals with autism,” Kaminsky said. “With autism being a part of our community and school system, we thought it was important that all our officers be thoroughly trained with the recognition and proper response with people with autism.”

As a result, Hillsborough’s police department recently has developed an Emergency Data Information base, which allows parents or guardians of special-needs children (and adults) to voluntarily complete a data sheet and return it to the police department.

The Emergency Data Sheet then provides law-enforcement officers with “essential information” — such as basic identifying information; emergency contact information; means of communication; best way to interact; specific fears or concerns the person might have when approached; sensory or medical issues; and attractions.

If you haven’t already, you should think about giving your local PD and FD a call and see what they are doing in this regard, and what you can do to help.

Autism and law enforcement

I’ve written about autism and law enforcement before, but in a time when it is becoming increasingly dangerous to be different it is worth mentioning again. The catalyst for this particular post is the NY Times article Helping Police Officers Understand Autism, which talks about the ongoing efforts of Dennis Debbaudt (who is an autism dad and, as it turns out, also provided the inspiration for my previous post on the topic).

Some key points from the article:

  • People with developmental disabilities, including autism, have up to seven times more contact with law enforcement officers than others, according to an article in the F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin in April 2001.
  • [W]hen Mr. Debbaudt asked whether any of the police officers, from departments throughout New Jersey, had received training on autism, either at police academies or on the job, only a few raised their hands.
  • Mr. Debbaudt said he had heard of 6 to 12 cases each year in which people with autism are harmed, hit with a stun gun or killed by law enforcement officials. He cited the case of Calvin Champion Jr., a 32-year-old man with autism who died in 2000 after Nashville police officers used pepper spray on him and subdued him.
  • “We’ve heard from families as well as from professionals that they just need more instruction, certainly in terms of first responders understanding that a person with autism may not respond appropriately or may not respond at all when given a command,” she said.
  • A bill cosponsored by [NJ] State Senator Loretta Weinberg would require autism awareness programs statewide for emergency medical technicians, police officers and firefighters. The bill was passed by the Assembly in March, and awaits action in the State Senate.

That last bullet sounds like a good idea that should be spread across the country to every state. (I’m going to see what, if anything, is being done here in Missouri.)

If you are the parent or caregiver of an autistic person, or if you work in law enforcement, you owe it to your self to check out Debbaudt’s sites: Autism Risk and Safety Management and Police and Autism – Avoiding Unfortunate Situations.

Experiences with Special Ed: The Ugly

As bad as the whole of the Kindergarten year was, one incident stands out. Julie came to me one night and told me that Zeke’s teacher had called to talk about his behavior, his acting out in class. What it came down to was she was asking for Julie’s permission to strap Zeke down in his chair so he would sit still in class.

This was 1996, not even 10 years ago, and the teacher (with the concurrence of Zeke’s case worker in the district) wanted to STRAP MY CHILD DOWN IN HIS CHAIR. Julie, of course, said no. Here’s where it gets ugly.

Not long after Julie told me about this obscene request, I happened to be at the school. This teacher, who had already approached Julie and been turned down, told me that she would like to use physical restraints on Zeke. Did she tell me that she had already asked Julie, and that Julie had said no? What do you think? Needless to say, I also said no. (What I thought was, “Why don’t you let me strap you down in a chair!?”)

It wasn’t long after this that we requested the IEP update and got the placement Zeke needed.

Update:  Sadly, more than 10 years after this happened to us the problem seems to be growing instead of going away.  Makes you want to shout, yell, scream, cry, throw your hands up in the air and wonder what the hell is wrong with us as a society?