Tomorrow is September and that seems to have flown around, thezachproject is a year and a week old which really doesn’t seem possible. Like all years it has been full of ups and downs, we have lost some lovely staff from Zach’s Beam team but we have also got some great new staff. I have started thinking about the next steps I need to be taking to ensure Zach’s future is the one I am sure he needs.
The last couple of weeks have been interesting. On Zach’s first day back at Water Lane House after our holiday he was going into Hertford town centre with his team when he became upset. This was by Hertford Theatre, he escalated quickly and was very vocal but his team had it under control. Suddenly they heard someone shouting ‘oy what is going on over there’ and two policewomen ran across the road to them. They started shouting at Zach, getting in his face wanting to know his name and what he was doing. Zach’s support team explained and would they mind stepping back and giving them space but they continued in the same vein. Obviously their unwanted input made the situation far more difficult and they seemed totally unaware of what an adult with autism who is struggling to cope may look like. When they finally got the message that Zach could not tell them his name as he is non verbal and that there was nothing untoward going on they asked if there was anything they could do to help! That might have been a good place to start!
I felt very upset when I heard about this. It is the third time this year there has been police involvement, we have never previously had any and I have been wondering why. You will have read in my previous (or you might have done) posts that I am concerned and mystified about why many adults with severe autism do not seem to get out into the community and I wonder if this kind of thing has happened to them too. It would be easy to avoid this happening again by just not taking Zach out, that would be a sure fire way to stop it. .
If the police can’t recognise the signs of autism how can we expect the general public to? Surely part of police training involves working with people who have learning disabilities and the do’s and the definite do nots! Shouting in some-ones face is never going to end well….imagine if as a result of them shouting at Zach he had injured one of them or one of his team! His autism would have been blamed!
I emailed the police and told them what I had been told about the incident and said I was concerned at the lack of awareness of the police and the way they had conducted themselves. About 20 minutes later a very nice lady telephoned and was very apologetic, she asked questions about the incident and I suggested she called Zach’s support team to get precise details. She left a message saying she was sorry it had happened on one of their phones….I am not convinced that steps were taken to avoid it happening again!
The following day I was at work in Mudlarks Garden Café when on the other side of the street two female police officers chased and caught a young girl. I don’t know her age but I would guess late teens. The girl wasn’t resisting them and was just standing when they started shouting in her face, what was her name, what was she doing and before you knew it the girl had become upset and was put in handcuffs! I was so tempted to go across and tell them I didn’t think much of their shouty approach and that if they were close enough to my face that I could feel their spit I would probably need cuffing too. They called for back up and two more female officers arrived….they were there for some time with this poor girl and I really felt for her. Before they moved off one of the officers came into the café and in passing said the girl was having some family problems! Wow
I am fully aware of police cuts. Those who are in the force and victims of crime who do not get the support they need as a result of these brutal cuts have my support and sympathy however if the force needs to make any more cuts I can give them a hand in choosing a couple who need putting out to pasture!
The following Saturday we went to McDonalds with Zach. Like many people who have autism Zach loves the golden arches and the uniformity of the food. Zach had a massive escalation in the car and we were put into a position where we couldn’t move the vehicle. It was probably McDonald’s busiest day of the week and we were stationary in the drive thru’ and nobody could get past us. One of the staff must have let the manager know and he came out and stood back from the car and in a calm quiet voice asked if there was anything he could do to help, could he call anyone for us? When we said no thank you he just said ‘take as long as you need and let me know if we can do anything’ and went back inside.
It seems rather ridiculous that the manager of a fast food restaurant has far better skills at communicating with someone in a difficult situation than the police. Whether a person has autism or not, shouting, raised and aggressive voices will only make a tricky situation worse.
To my friends in the police force please excuse my rant but if you see your Hertford colleagues please give them a refresher in disability awareness 🙂