BBA (Being Black with Autism)

I remember being so excited when I learned I was having a boy.  I’m such a tomboy so having a son was perfect for me. I dreamt of cheering him on at his football and basketball games. The ideas were endless of what I thought his childhood would be like.

In 2005, after recovering from craniosynostosis surgery, I read a newspaper article about autism. My heart sank.  The symptoms list described many of the things Preston did; lining up toys, made little eye contact, limited speech, preferred to play alone. I asked doctors if he had autism. My questions were dismissed. I was told his developmental delays would be improve in time.

Beginning in Preston’s preschool years, the behaviors became extreme. They were impulsive and physical. Although there was no real explanation for it, doctors wanted to put him on medication.  I refused. He was finally diagnosed with autism at the age of 6. Problem with is that is early intervention a vital. Preston missed out on valuable time of getting the care he needed. We had to play catch up.

Preston has always towered over his peers. His teachers have all been females particularly white. This can be problematic due to the cultural and gender differences. These behaviors mainly happened at school. Many times, I was told “we can’t control him” or “his behavior is threat to the safety of others.”  He was sent home. As a parent, those are hurtful things to hear about your child. I worked with the staff but yet I was still fearful of the authorities being called.

I was told a few times that they would have no choice but to call the police if I didn’t pick him up.

I’ve taught my son to call 911 in case of emergencies. I want him to be able to go to the authorities when necessary. Due to the tragic Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown situations(just to name a few), I’ve had to give my son the painful truth about what can happen when some officers have come into contact with black males.

I fear for my son because he’s on the autism spectrum.  Police have limited training in dealing with those with mental disabilities.  It breaks my heart with every video of police arresting young autistic boys (regardless of color). Some have been shot and killed by the police.

I worry about it because he can be aggressive when he becomes overwhelmed, frustrated or feel threatened. What happens to my son if he doesn’t comply in the manner they demand he should? Will they shoot him? I try to teach my son how to conduct himself in the presence of the law even though he’s still struggling with social cues and making friends. Children with autism are 6 times more likely to have contact with the police in comparison to peers who are not autistic.

My son is Black and has autism; one alone is a challenge but both can bring about devastating circumstances.

There was a time when the police called me about an incident that occurred at my son’s school. I explained to the officer that my son has autism. His response was “I understand that, but I was told he’s big for his age” and even suggested that I give them a call if my son’s behavior ever became too much for me to handle.  At this time, Preston was 9.

Why would I call the police on my 9-year-old child?

Not all officers are bad.  I know some excellent men(and women) on the force.  I want my son to know that the police are there to protect and serve.  Unfortunately, we have to discuss the bad outcomes that have occurred as well.

I don’t want my son to be the latest headline.  I don’t want to lose him to someone who, more than likely, will never see a day in jail for taking his life.

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