Local police, Good Samaritans provide understanding, help to autistic man in crisis
Many people will never understand how autism affects a person’s perception of the world.
It’s like having a thought of exactly what you want to do, you know how to do it, and then when you start to do it, you don’t know why or what you are doing. However, the desire persistently comes back, taking you into a vicious cycle of cognitive disconnect. This disconnect leaves an autistic individual feeling helpless, frustrated and eventually angry at oneself causing SIB (self-injurious behaviors). When these frustrations escalate, you get what is called an autistic meltdown.
So, as Mom, what do you do during these meltdowns? Do you watch them bite themselves, hit their heads, bang their bodies against the walls or do you intervene? Still yet, you know that if you do intervene, the aggressiveness may be turned on you.
Especially difficult is the time in development when your adolescent is transitioning to adulthood when mentally they are processing things at the level of a 4-year-old. This is when your love and dedication as a parent is really put to the test.
On Sept. 26 my son began to have a serious meltdown as we were driving home. He began to hit himself in the car, bite himself and pinch my arms while driving. I did not want to continue driving and pulled over so that I could get out of the car and hopefully talk him back down to a state of calm.
Unfortunately, things did not go the way I had planned. Instead, my son began to bite himself even mor, because I had left the car. He came out of the car full speed ahead and began to push me, pinch me and hit
me. Eventually, he had me on the ground.
Here’s where the local heroes came in. First, although several cars drove by seeing the situation, no one asked if help was needed. I could not get my phone to call for an ambulance, so I was, just as was my son, at the mercy of his autistic meltdown.
Then a man drove up in a white van and asked if I needed help. I asked him to please call
911, adding I need an ambulance for my son who is autistic. However, my son was in fullblown crisis and totally unaware of what he was doing. He also has scoliosis and a fused spine, so I am always very careful about protecting his back during mobility.
Then came another man (who was the hero of the day). Wearing a red shirt and riding up on a bicycle, what he saw was a large man on top of a small woman.
However, I immediately told him that the man on top of me was my son, that he was autistic, had the mentality of a
4-year-old, was having an autistic meltdown, did not know what he was doing, and that his spine was fused, adding, “Please don’t hurt him.”
This man, though strong and manly, did not react physically to my son’s aggression towards me but rather used his head to appropriately assess what my son needed. He got behind him, cradling his back, holding under his arms and slowly lay down on the ground, pulling my son off of me and on top of his stomach. I lay there holding my son’s legs straight out so that he
would not use his legs to push against the man that was helping us, and we waited for the ambulance.
When I got out of the car, our dog jumped out too and began to run around and into the street. I could call for him, but he was a rescue dog, is still a puppy, and all I could do is hope he would not get into traffic. Then came hero two.
Another man came up as the three of us lay in the gravel and asked for my keys so that he could get my leash and capture our dog. Thank you, so much as our dog, like my son is young, high-strung, and is not always aware of dangers. We were parked in front of Taos Net and the owner came out to see what was happening, informing me he was the owner of the property. I apologized for being on his property and informed him what was happening. He was so understanding, he began to stroke the sweat off of my son’s head and speak comfortingly to him. This was a great help. Thank you…
I have had these episodes periodically throughout my son’s life but nothing ever this violent. So, I have never wanted to get police involved as I was afraid they would not assess the situation correctly and would injure my son without taking time to understand what was really happening.
You can imagine what the police must have thought as they came upon a man and woman holding down another man as he screamed and bit himself. I am so thankful for how professionally they handled this incident.
I informed them about my son’s autistic meltdown, that his doctor said I should call an ambulance and have a sedative
injection given to him at the hospital as we worked on re-assessing his medications. I also pleaded with them to realize his spine was fused, and he could be easily and permanently injured.
As the man in the red shirt and I held my son, the police began to talk to him, asking him what he needed, telling him they were there to help. They did not attempt to pull him up or physically grab him as that would have escalated the situation and lead to a perhaps permanent spinal injury. Instead, they waited for my son to calm down.
These officers then transported my son to the hospital and stayed with us until medical attention could be fully accomplished. I really appreciate the professionalism of these Taos Police officers for their correct assessment of the situation and for the way they handled this mental crisis that my son was having. I especially want to thank my personal hero, the man in the red shirt.
I have no way of contacting you as I had to leave quickly to the hospital emergency room. Please contact the Taos Police Department and give them a way for me to reach you so that I can thank you in a way more than words. You have restored my faith in people, thank you. My personal thanks to Patrolman Leevan Sanchez, Patrolman Gabriel Martinez and Sgt. Mark Archuleta. These officers, for my son and I, represented the meaning of the oath to protect and serve.
Thank you for being intelligent and professional in the way that you assisted my son and me.
Sincerely, Elaine Ray Elaine Ray is a Taos resident.