In the wake of Kajieme Powell: An Autism Mom’s Plight

BY: - 26 Aug '14 | Parenting

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Facing Autism on BMWK

As a mom raising a black son, a black autistic son, I fear the day he comes in contact with law enforcement. I worry about my son because autism affects the way he communicates and responds to communication from others. It affects the way he socializes and it also affects his behavior.

We live in New York City: home to Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Eric Garner, and thousands of black men who are subjected to stop-and-frisk tactics every single day. So yes, I do worry about my son.

When it comes to “The Talk” that black parents have with their children on how to interact with police officers, I am often silent. I am silent  because I am trying to figure out how I will be able to communicate how important this “life or death talk” is when my seven-year old son becomes a teenager.

When I heard that Kajieme Powell was gunned down by St. Louis, Missouri police officers only days after Ferguson police killed Michael Brown, my heart sank. According to police reports, Powell was wielding a knife and he refused to listen to the officers’ commands to drop it. As I watched the video of the killing, I wondered if events would’ve turned out differently if these officers had been properly trained to interact with someone who obviously had a mental illness. It is almost as if police are trained to shoot first and ask questions later. Powell could’ve been any of our kids.

We need continuous education of our law enforcement personnel. A one-time seminar is not enough. These seminars need to be conducted in every police precinct nationwide and we need to ensure the consistent implementation of the tactics they learn when they interact with the public.

A good place for police departments to start would be to read Autism & Law Enforcement: 25 Field Response Tips by Dennis Debbaudt. He is one of the leading experts on training law enforcement on how to interact with people with autism.

Now take a look at the 10 characteristics of individuals with autism that the Law Enforcement Awareness Network (L.E.A.N) highlights on their LEAN ON Us Autism Specific First Responder Pocket Cards. At age seven, my son already exhibits eight out of 10 of these characteristics.

1. Sensitivity to touch

2. Sensitivity to sound and light

3. Repetitive behavior

4. May not be able to speak/appear deaf

5. No sense of danger

6. Have fight or flight response

7. May not follow verbal commands

8. Need time to process information

9. May not know their rights

10. Appear nervous

I know as parents we can do our part by making sure that the officers in our local precinct are familiar with our children and their diagnoses. I know some parents who have taken their children to their local precinct to introduce them to police officers. Some precincts also have regular community meetings that we can attend. This will help to increase engagement with the officers who have sworn to protect and serve us.

I have to admit that none of these tips will guarantee our children’s safety when they encounter law enforcement. I also have to admit that I am still worried about the day that my son is in a situation with law enforcement that could escalate in a matter of seconds. So last but not least, as parents let us pray for the safety of our children.

About the author

Kpana Kpoto wrote 38 articles on this blog.

Kpana Kpoto, also known as Miz Kp, is a special needs advocate and blogger. She provides resources and support for autism parents through her blog, Sailing Autistic Seas and her support group, Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle. Kpana lives in New York City with her husband and only child, six-year old "Angel" who is conquering autism one milestone at a time.

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5 Decisions Your Kids Will Thank You For When They Grow Up

BY: - 29 Aug '14 | Parenting

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As parents, we do our best to make the right decisions. We don’t always get things right, but we try. Parenting is hard work and as our little ones grow up, we realize how much they understand, what they internalize, and how our day-to-day decisions impact their lives.

We often find ourselves consumed with the impact our decisions will have on their childhood. We try to get them involved with meaningful activities that will keep them engaged and physically fit. We try to make sure they are getting the education they need to be successful in life. We are mindful of what they eat because we know how important a healthy diet is. These are all things we should be doing as parents, but what about the other stuff?

You see, we sometimes don’t realize that the decisions we don’t think of as “parenting” decisions are having a tremendous impact on our kids. And in years to come, our decisions can become a burden for them. I know that’s not what you want for your babies. It’s certainly not what I want for my children.

So as important as it is to focus on their education, their diet and their physical activity, I challenge you to think about the other decisions you make in your life. Those decisions may not have an immediate impact on our children’s lives, but will there be a long-term affect? Will the decisions you make today bring your children stress and pain in adulthood?

Here are 5 decisions I think your kids will thank you for making. They are not easy decisions to make, but the long-term impact of making them is priceless.

Seek help for your depression. So many people with depression suffer in silence, sometimes keeping their condition a secret from their own spouse. Untreated depression doesn’t just go away on its own, though. You have to seek help. I know that seeking help can be very difficult, but find a person you trust and ask them to hold your hand while you take that first step. I can only imagine what a difference it would have made if my own mother got help for her depression years ago instead of suffering in silence for so long.

Show them what healthy love looks like. You can’t stay in a relationship that is unhealthy and makes you unhappy without expecting it to do damage to your kids. It will. If your marriage is suffering, take steps to repair the damage and create a stronger union. If the damage is beyond repair, ask yourself if your kids will really benefit in the long run if you decide to stay together. They need to know that happy, healthy love is, indeed, a very real possibility.

Prepare for the worse. As parents we have to plan for the worse. This means that each parent should have a life insurance policy and as you age, you need to strongly consider long-term care insurance. Without it, if you ever become ill and need care that is not covered by insurance, the responsibility of paying for that care will fall on your children. By making plans today, you give your kids the freedom to focus on their own children when they grow up without constantly being worried about your care.

Get a life. Your life should not revolve around your kids. You have to have your own interests and activities. If you make your life revolve around them, it will eventually create a situation where your children feel guilty about living their own lives. As they grow up and move out, you will find yourself consumed with sadness because caring for them is all your know. Finding joy in life outside of your kids is so important.

Live your own dreams. The best way to raise healthy kids who can confidently pursue their dreams is for you to pursue your own. A big mistake that many parents make is putting all their dreams on hold to raise their children and then imposing their personal dreams on their kids. I know pursuing your dreams is not always easy, but you have to do it because your dreams cannot become theirs. Give them the space to have and live their own dreams.

BMWK parents, what are some decisions you’ve made that will benefit your children when they become adults.

About the author

Martine Foreman wrote 488 articles on this blog.

Martine Foreman is a speaker, writer, lifestyle consultant, and ACE-certified Health Coach who specializes in helping moms who want more out of life but feel overwhelmed and confused. Through her content and services, Martine is committed to helping women embrace their personal truth, gain clarity, and take action to create healthier, happier lives. For more on Martine's candid views on life and love, visit her at candidbelle.com. To work with her, visit her at martineforeman.com. Martine resides in Maryland with her husband, two kids and sassy cat Pepper.

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