On July 18, Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto, 26, wandered away from his group home in Miami. Charles Kinsey, his behavioral therapist, came after him and attempted to calm him. Police were called in when someone mistook a toy truck held by Rios for a gun and called 911 thinking he was suicidal. Police shot Kinsey in the leg. They said that was a mistake, and that the officer was aiming at Rios, who was still holding the truck. The officer thought Rios posed a danger, said a representative of the local police union.
This tragic shooting involving the caretaker of a man with autism exposes the need for greater understanding of autism and more training for law enforcement officers across the United States.
ASNC trains first responders in North Carolina
In our state, the Autism Society of North Carolina has been educating police officers and other first responders about individuals with autism since 2004. Our Autism Resource Specialists participate in Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training with law enforcement officers through the Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCOs) in each area of the state. This is a week-long training that covers a lot of crisis issues and strategies. Select outside agencies are invited to give one-hour presentations on a few special populations. ASNC Autism Resource Specialists provide the autism session every time one of our LME/MCOs provides the CIT training. All of the Autism Resource Specialists are also parents of children with autism, so they bring their personal experiences to these presentations. For some, that may include past interactions with police to share and discuss.
In addition to CIT trainings, ASNC is training law enforcement, emergency personnel, and other first responders through local governments and individual law enforcement agencies. In the past five years, ASNC has provided 61 trainings of 1,423 law enforcement officers and first responders; 614 of those were trained in the last year alone. These officers then took that information back to their units or served as the go-to people for future calls involving individuals with autism.
If you are a parent who wants to work with ASNC to schedule trainings for first responders in your area, please contact your local Autism Resource Specialist for assistance. Often ASNC Chapters also assist in planning and sponsoring the trainings.
ASNC advocates for training
In 2005, advocacy by the Autism Society of North Carolina and other agencies spurred the North Carolina legislature to pass a law requiring autism training to be part of Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) for all new recruits across the state. ASNC and Judge Kimberly Taylor, a former ASNC Board member, led the advocacy after the tragic death of a young adult with autism while in the custody of officers in Statesville. If you are the caregiver for an individual with autism and you contact the police because of a crisis, you can request that an officer being sent has been through the BLET after 2005 or the CIT Training. Recognizing the importance of training first responders, the NC General Assembly and the Office of the Governor have supported efforts by the Autism Society of North Carolina to produce and distribute training videos as well as conduct in person training across the state. ASNC continues to advocate for funding to ensure that officers and other emergency personal get access not just to basic information about autism, but also to in-person interactive training with our expert staff.
ASNC provides safety information
The Safe in the Community section of our website, at http://bit.ly/ASNCSafetyKit, includes many resources that can help families with wandering and other safety concerns.
- Tips sheet on wandering prevention
- Printable “personal information record” for you to fill out and share with first responders about your loved one with autism, before a crisis occurs
- ID card you can print or order
- “Person with Autism” decals you can order for your home or vehicle
- Social narratives to teach individuals how to be safe
- Links to other resources and products such as ID labels
Our Autism Resource Specialists also offer a workshop titled “Staying Two Steps Ahead: Safety Considerations for Caregivers,” which covers how autism can affect safety, how to be proactive, and safety-related resources. It will be presented in webinar form online on Sept. 19. Find the schedule for all of our workshops at http://bit.ly/ASNCWorkshopCalendar.
The Autism Society of North Carolina strives to create a community of understanding and acceptance of individuals with autism. We can work together to keep our loved ones safe. If we can help you in any way, please contact us at 919-743-0204 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or find an Autism Resource Specialist near you: http://bit.ly/AutismResourceSpecialists.