Alright – so, I have written about this issue extensively and have advocated for it in both the state and federal. Minnesota has passed an awesome law that will address the need to train and educate law enforcement in a manner that is culturally responsive. First, I want to give credit to the many many people in the autism community who fought like hell to pass this law. Noah M, Autism Soc of Minn, and others. Thanks for your relentless advocacy.
I first joined this effort years ago when my son had a behavior in the car in the middle of the highway. I called 911 and the state trooper that came pointed a gun at us. Let’s digest this, I am from Somalia, arguably the most dangerous country in the world and I have never had a gun pointed at me. I had to then stay calm and tell the officer my son has autism and he is having a behavior. And that I need him to help me get out of the highway and into a safe area. After I explained this to the state trooper, he was extremely supportive and helpful. Then I asked him if he has had any autism training. He replied not much maybe a few minutes with all of the other disability training which is not even that much.
So then as I have always done, I have put on my advocacy hat and tried to figure out what can I do so that the next autism family does not endure such a scary moment. First, I called the Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona D’s office and tried to find out their policies for training state troopers about autism. Her office was very responsive and after I gathered data and facts, I made an appointment with their training person (s). They were also very receptive and helpful. After several meetings and email exchanges, they said around 15 min or so can be added to the hundreds of state troopers that get trained annually.
Then I contacted the city I live and Mpls mayors to see if they can also train their officers about autism and how to help if they are called for help. My wonderful case manager for my son and I met with the chief of policy in where I live. I have to say, I loved meeting this guy. He too said they can add autism training to their procedures. And, wait for it… the best part…. drum roll please…, he watched the young and the restless and the Kardashians. I mean a police chief who is down-to-earth and approachable. It does not get better than that. Hold your horses – all mayors and police chiefs are not created equal, I also met with Mpls mayor Jacob F. Keep in mind, I knew this guy way before he was a hotshot mayor and he was at least reasonable. No more, when we met with him, he promised nothing and offered even less. He was distant and simply took our votes for granted.
Then I met the chair of the public safety in MN House Rep. M in an education advocacy meeting and started asking if a statewide bill that ensures autism training can be done because I can’t keep asking one city at a time as that will take forever and some of them may say no like Mpls did. By this time, others such as Noah and others were heavily advocating at the state capitol for this, so I joined. Finally, the law passed and was sent to the Minn Peace Officers committee. I called them to see if they can make sure and add cultural perspectives since all behaviors are embedded in their culture. Again, I was met with such a supportive and kind manner by their chair who is the chief of police in Mendota Heights. Now, it is out and it has been sent to me. It simply looks fantastic. It is inclusive, thoughtful, comprehensive, and really good.
I think the next step is to start this with the selected groups/agencies who will do the training and support law enforcement agencies.
You see if we see the glass as half full and figure out how to change our experiences into something usually some kind of a policy that helps the autism family behind us – then we all succeed.
The above words do not reflect any candidate, agency, or committee.
Idil – Somali Autism Mom & Advocate