My teen with #Autism was frisked by police today and here’s what happened

After difficulties getting some of the kids ready and off to school today (cough Elliott cough), Gavin and I had to run a few errands.  

One of these errands took us to the Stark County Courthouse. I don’t know if I’ve actually set foot in that building since the day Gavin’s abusive biological father signed away his paternal rights and I adopted Gavin on the spot. 

I hate everything about this building, with the exception of Gavin’s adoption and walking into the building brought back a flurry of emotions I hadn’t felt in a very long time.  
Thankfully, we were only there for the title office to deal with something for our car but we still had to go through security. 

We had to empty our pockets and run everything through the scanner and the deputy said to just cover my watch with my hand but of course that didn’t work. This resulted in me being scanned with the wand and semi-frisked. 

It was all great until Gavin set off the metal detector as well and he had to undergo the same procedure.  

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I didn’t even have a chance to say anything about him being Autistic before he was standing there with his legs spread apart and his arms straight out.  

I was thinking to myself, OMG please let Gavin be okay with this because sometimes he can be unpredictable when it comes to being touched.  

Gavin ended up doing great but the sorta funny part was that he thought he was being arrested. It’s not really funny but at the same time, it sorta is. 

The point of this is that we’ve talked to our kids about how to interact with the police.  We’ve told them to simply do whatever the police officers tell them to do, even if they didn’t do anything wrong because we can sort that out later.

Gavin did exactly what we had told him and frankly, there was no other way we could have seen how he would react to this type of thing without him actually being in this type of situation.  

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I feel good that he did so well.  

I’m a huge fan of law enforcement. Having been a fire/medic, I’ve worked with law enforcement on many occasions and while there are bad apples in every profession, the overwhelming majority of police officers are here to serve and protect us.  

With everything going on in this country over police violence against black Americans, parents of kids with Autism face similar fears. Kids with Autism may be considered combative or resisting by police because they don’t understand the situation. These situations can escalate rapidly and spin out of control.

I don’t mean to compare the two situations directly because both are major problems but instead I just wanted to point out why we work with our kids with Autism on how to interact with law enforcement. 


  1. People with mental illness 16 times more likely to be killed by police (that is just one example there are many)
    I wouldnt even compare the racial stuff with the police encountering a person with a mental health problem. Yes, they might overlap, but a 16 times chance is very significant.
    The police do have some training, but they are not trained professionals, nor do they know or can they know unfortunately if the threat they perceive is real or something that can be diffused or if the person is confused, or doesn’t or can’t understand commands given quickly enough.
    I dont know the answer to this, but here at least there is at least two on duty at ll times who respond to cases when they get a call about someone who might not be a threat, but is instead mentally ill. It has helped here. It doesn’t matter if someone is white, black, Latino or whateever, sixteen times liikely is 16 times more likely.
    I am glad Gavin made it through, and you were there to talk to him about how to respind to police or other authority (most courthouses are manned by a hired securty firm some carry weapons most dont) I would love to see the schools/parents/facilities educate how to reespond and have practice scenerios, it would ultimately save lives.

  2. I am a police officer. I subscribed to your page, because every tidbit of information helps me with my next encounter with someone that is autistic, their family’s concerns and helps me be successful.

    Here in Connecticut, we get training for special needs.

    Many officers have autistic children or children with mental health struggles. My brother had schizophrenia. It’s not an us verse them scenario. We are in this together.

    @ Ellen Beck… this is just half the story. Police officers are also more likely to be injured or killed by people with mental illness. A violent patient with the same mental health problems as my brother tried taking my gun three separate times during a short struggle. He was close to succeeding. There was no one more sympathetic to this patient’s plight or anyone that wanted to help more than me. Fortunately, when this incident was said and done, everyone was okay.

    Believe me when I say the vast majority of officers want to help.

    In the future, if you are concerned about going to the court house or through security at an airport, call ahead and let a supervisor know your concerns.

    I’m sure they will attempt to make special accommodations so that procedures are less stressful for Gavin.

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