Lo­cal po­lice, Good Sa­mar­i­tans pro­vide un­der­stand­ing, help to autis­tic man in cri­sis

The Taos News - - FAVOR Y CONTRA - By Elaine Ray

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.

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