Welcome to your weekly Tips from the Team. We’ll be bringing you information from knowledgeable writers on a range of subjects including biomedical treatments, nutrition, advocacy, safety and more—information you can use to improve the quality of life for both your child and yourself.
Emergency Response: 
Law Enforcement and Autism
In the midst of headlines involving confrontations between police and individuals with ASD, appropriate response and preparedness are critical in establishing community collaboration…

By Andrew and Carolyn Gammichia

Law enforcement and autism.  What is it about this concept that may cause an unconscious sigh to escape our lips or make our shoulders tense up a bit?  For a lot of us, it brings to mind the many incidents that we hear about or may have personally experienced while images pass through our heads of both positive and negative outcomes.  We may envision flashing lights and can almost hear the shrill sound of sirens that take us back to events which vividly portray frightened children in the arms of officers returning them to their parents after having wandered.  We might recall expressions of anguish and grief of family members after their loved one has had an encounter with the police where they may have been harmed. 
Beyond the headlines
Unfortunately, we often focus on the situations that may have caused harm to individuals because that is how our brains naturally function while pulling from our memory what is most prominent.  The events that cause more emotion, stir our souls, and grasp at our heartstrings will be what we automatically recall and often may cause us to worry almost daily.  We must  also consider that we usually only call the police when something bad transpires and we need assistance, but we also have to consider they are responding to those incidents 24/7.  The dilemma we face is being able to defer these thoughts, work toward creating a better understanding of the expectations we and our law enforcement community may have, while also being able to come together to achieve what is our combined ultimate goal: the safety of individuals with autism.
In the last few months, we heard some terrible stories of police encounters that have ended in injury and even death.  Typically, our knee- jerk reaction is to place blame, while at the same time we want to prevent these situations in any way possible.  That is why we are bringing you our personal story from a very unique perspective. 
Andrew is a police officer who has been in the field for twenty eight years in a variety of capacities which included five years a narcotics officer as well as a school liaison officer.  Carolyn is a non-attorney advocate and supports individuals with disabilities.  We are parents of a son with autism, as well as community activists who have been working to educate and collaborate with first responders now for over two decades.  Our hope is to provide information that will assist in positively frame thoughts about those within law enforcement while also sharing ways to work collaboratively to ensure the safety of individuals living with autism in their communities.  Our primary goal is to have each side of this perspective realize what each other's expectations are, and if those are not possible, to understand why and to work toward creating new ones.  

To continue reading, click here.

Andrew and Carolyn Gammicchia are parents of two sons, one who has autism, and they have been advocates within the autism community for almost two decades.  They founded the organization L.E.A.N. On Us in 2002 to provide support to the first responder community on disability related issues and advocate for victims of crime who have a disability as well as work toward national jail diversion initiatives for individuals with I/DD.  Sought-after national speakers on these subjects, they have served on many boards, committees, and advisory panels of disability related organizations over the years. Carolyn is currently on the Advisory Panel for The Arc’s National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability.


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