My Son....Our Why

My son has Autism. He is non-verbal, with very limited receptive language skills. I advocated for my son through k-12, and continually for his health needs and in the community. My son Richard is a large, vulnerable, 27-year-old man.  Recently my son was riding with his father when they were stopped by the police. His father tells me that the first thing he communicated to the officer who approached his side of the van was: I am carrying a concealed weapon, as he is licensed to do so.  I cannot express the panic I felt at that time. My response was an emotional outburst: NO! The first thing you tell them is that your son is non-verbal, doesn’t respond to directions, and is severely impaired with Autism!!  My imagination ran wild with how my son’s actions would appear to an officer standing on his side of the van. My son often checks his seatbelt. Would it look like he was reaching for something in his waistband? My son often points with his finger across to the driver’s side if the door is not locked or a seatbelt is unfastened. What would an officer think he was pointing and in that direction?  This incident has added to the ever-burgeoning concerns and worries I have for my son and others that are vulnerable in the community. 

How can my son and as well as other people communicate their vulnerabilities with other people including officers and instruct them how to be with him to prevent a controversial encounter? 

Elizabeth Mullins

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