Last month, new video was released of an off-duty Chicago police officer shooting an 18-year-old with autism on the city’s Far South Side in 2017. Ricky Hayes had eloped that night and began skipping through a local neighborhood when he could not find his way home.
Upon locating Hayes, the off-duty sergeant engaged in an “armed confrontation” with the teen, police said at the time, after thinking Hayes was pulling a gun on him. The new footage shows the teen was not aggressive as the sergeant initially claimed.
With individuals of color on the autism spectrum being at a higher risk for an incident with police, Milestones Autism Resources urges first responders everywhere to make autism training a priority. Proper education and understanding can keep traumatic encounters like this from occurring in the future.
To learn more about autism and available educational resources, please visit milestones.org or call us at 216.464.7600.
Recent body cam footage out of Denton, Texas, has shown a 10-year-old boy with autism being held to the ground by his neck, handcuffed, and dragged by a school resource officer. What can be seen in this video is unacceptable. Equally troubling is the recognition by the child and officer that this was not the first time it occurred, rather it appears to be an ongoing, deeply distressing strategy.
With 1 in 59 children being diagnosed with autism, educators, school officials and first responders must be equipped with the appropriate strategies to support this population and their unique communication challenges. School staff have a responsibility to educate themselves and, if needed, to seek community partners to assist them in serving their students with autism.
As a community, we must work together to prevent such trauma from happening to another child. By providing effective education to the professionals we trust our children with every day, we can improve the outcomes for individuals with autism and help them reach their own unique potential.
Milestones encourages those who serve the autism community to contact their local autism organization to get connected with training in their area. For links to helpful resources, please visit the Milestones Resource Center.
-Ilana Hoffer Skoff, Executive Director
Milestones Autism Resources
This piece was originally published as a Letter to the Editor on cleveland.com.
Milestones Autism Resources is incredibly disheartened to hear of the recent bullying incident at Greenbriar Middle School involving a young boy with autism. Any act of verbal or physical harassment is unacceptable.
Evidence suggests that individuals with autism are highly vulnerable to bullying, with over 60% of children with autism reporting being bullied at some point in their lives. Milestones can provide support to individuals, families, or school teams seeking resources to combat the occurrence of bullying and the emotional trauma that may result.
If you or someone you know is experiencing bullying and is in need of individualized resources, please call the Milestones free autism Helpdesk at 216.464.7600.
Last month, over 100 first responders gathered at the La Casa Bella Party Center in Oakwood Village, OH, for a training about autism and how to interact with individuals with ASD. The training, led by Milestones Autism Resources Program Director Beth Thompson, allowed participants to learn how to handle common issues like eloping, sensory overload, and communication challenges. At least 40 local police departments were represented as well as firefighters, school security and special agents from the FBI.
“The autism community knows the danger of first responders not receiving the training they need to work with individuals on the autism spectrum,” said Thompson. “Milestones is proud to provide that education to our community of first responders.”
During the training, the crowd also heard from a panel of self-advocates and parents of individuals with ASD. Nathan Morgan, who joined the Milestones team in February as an Early Childhood & School Age Coordinator, was one of the panelists in attendance.
“As a social worker, it was enlightening to hear the diverse perspective of the officers,” said Morgan. “As an autism self-advocate, it was empowering to share my voice and perspectives to promote positive interactions between persons with autism, their loved ones, and the officers serving the community.”
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The entire team at Milestones Autism Resources mourns the loss of the 17 victims in Parkland, Florida. We are deeply saddened by such a tragic event. In light of speculation that the assailant may have autism, we support the following statement from the Autism Society of America: “No reliable research has found that a person who is autistic is more likely to commit violence than a person without an autism diagnosis.”
We ask that those reporting on this matter avoid suggesting a linkage between senseless violence and autism. Suggesting such a correlation between the two misrepresents the millions of individuals in America affected by autism. In fact, research has shown that individuals with autism are more likely to be victims of violence than those without autism.
Again, our thoughts are with those affected by this tragic event. We hope effective solutions are developed to prevent such devastating loss in the future.
If you have any concerns or questions, please call Milestones at 216.464.7600 for local information and support during this time.