Lock Up

“THANK YOU for hand cuffing my son and transporting him in your police car.”

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Yes, I made that statement. And yes, I sincerely meant EVERY word of it.

Mike was on his FIRST field trip with his class, to the Strawberry Festival. The Strawberry Festival is an annual event that celebrates the local strawberry harvest and other agricultural accomplishments. The event is held at our local fairgrounds and is a mixture of carnival rides, games, and agricultural displays.

The trouble started as soon as Mike entered the fairgrounds. He was greeted with a cart, selling the typical carnival junk and he wanted a bubble gun! Now, when I use the word, “wanted” what I mean is that he had a desire so intense – it consumed him. The teachers and aides on the field trip were able to redirected him away from the first cart. Unfortunately, they were greeted by a cart on every corner.

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His desire for the bubble gun turned to anxiety. The anxiety quickly turned to aggression and Mike was unwilling to remain with the group. The teachers were unable to calm and/or control him and decided that the safest option was to transport Mike back to school.

Deputy Barker, the school resource police officer, was dispatched and arrived on the scene within 15 minutes of receiving the call.

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As I’ve previously noted, Mike is a VERY big young man. He is 6’2″ and weighs approximately 230 pounds – he is incredibly strong and fast. He is physically intimidating. When Deputy Barker arrived, the staff was having a very difficult time keeping Mike with the group. People were starting to stare and the fairground’s ‘local’ police officers were observing at a distance.

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It was then that I received the phone call. I had met Deputy Barker on a couple of occasions and found him to be a very compassionate man. Our school has a very large ESE population and he has worked cooperatively with the staff for several years.

When he called me, his words were direct and quick. He simply stated that Mike was melting down and bolting from the staff. He was going to remove Mike from the fairgrounds and transport him back to school. He wanted to accomplish this task without any involvement from the ‘local’ police officers who were observing him. He was informing me that he intended on using his handcuffs to gain control over Mike.

I immediately understood what he was saying – Mike’s size matters. He can be very intimidating to people who don’t know him. He feared that the ‘local’ police officers would attempt to assist him and possibly use unnecessary force. In that moment, I knew how much this man cared. I knew I could trust him.

With the assistance of the school staff, Deputy Barker handcuffed Mike. When Mike realized that he was the ‘bad guy’ and wasn’t going to get away with his behavior, he complied. He calmly walked with Deputy Barker to the police car without incident. He was placed in the backseat of the car, and transported back to school where he finished out the school day.

NO, I was not asked to pick him up.
NO, he was not suspended from school.
NO, he did not receive additional,
unnecessary disciplinary actions.

The school GETS it –they did not reinforce Mike’s behaviors and they

did not reward him by sending him home.

Now, the thought of my autistic son being led away in handcuffs was not a pleasant one. It’s incredibly painful to know that your child is probably scared and that there’s nothing you can do about it – except trust. My faith in Deputy Barker mostly came from his composure during out brief phone call. He wasn’t frustrated, intimidated, angry, upset, or flustered by Mike’s behaviors. He also understood the bigger opportunity – to teach Mike a lesson, while ensuring his safety.

While the purpose of the field trip was to educate the students about agriculture, Mike learned a far greater lesson that day. He learned that there are unpleasant consequences to bad behavior. He learned that he must respect and listen to police officers.

I couldn’t be more thankful for the compassion and understanding that Deputy Barker showed that day. He made sure that Mike was uncomfortable, scared and SAFE. He made sure that the experience taught Mike a life lesson that he NEEDED to learn.

The next day, I visited Deputy Barker with Mike. We reviewed a social story about what had occurred. We reviewed the options and consequences with Mike. HE GOT IT – he has participated in the Strawberry Festival field trip EVERY year since, without incident.

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Some lessons are best learned the hard way.

19 thoughts on “Lock Up

  1. Mom says:

    Oh my goodness. I am glad that this ending was positive, but it is absolutely terrifying. Wow. Thank the Lord that there was someone non-reactive on site. Wow. I am so sorry you had to go through this, but so glad that Mike is ok.

  2. You are very lucky that your school’s resource officer is kind and compassionate. My own son who is 14 was not that lucky. He had a meltdown in school, and instead of the officer realizing what it meant for him to have a meltdown reported it to the police. who in turn reported it to CPS. Having to deal with my other child and family members being pulled out of school to be interviewed, having to deal with the fear and not knowing what was going to happen with the CPS caseworker was truly my worst nightmare coming true.
    I am so thankful that this was not the case in your situation and i’m glad that there are still people out there that care.

  3. vhaga says:

    Awesome story. I wish more people were like Deputy Barker. Our school system would have done the opposite. Dave was suspended for calling his teacher and “idiot.” He is at an alternative school that is wonderful but I wish he could have remained in public school with neurotypical peer influences.

  4. Michelle says:

    Where is Deputy Baker so I can give him a huge HUG! A very difficult situation and he understood what the goal of the intervention should be. I’m glad you had him in this situation.

    I also love that you were all able to follow up on the situation the next day. That isn’t something that is readily available in the PS system.

      • haha! I just read this for the first time. Not laughing at the situation, just how Mike hasn’t forgiven him. 🙂 I’m glad it was handled so well. You are such a great mom! xo

  5. Brandy Hickerson says:

    I have cried reading your post – my son is also a ‘big boy’ and people react to his size with aggression which causes his behavior to escalate. Am so glad much was learned by all!!!

    • It’s my greatest fear. Mike doesn’t know his own strength – I’m thankful that he’s *still* intimidated by me. I worked hard at being consistent when he was younger – his future size was always on my mind.

  6. Wow,its so nice to hear a story about a school that has staff that “Get it”, we hear to many stories of how horrible our kids are being treated and it is heart breaking. My daughter is only 5 so while her size is not an issue as of yet there are still many worries of her needs and intentions being understood and handled appropriately. I am lucky she is in an amazing school full of wonderful staff and I hope we continue to be so fortunate. I am glad that it was able to work out so well for Mike and was able to have a lasting impact on him in such a positive way!

  7. Katie says:

    This made me cry. There have been many times I had to call the police to my home because my boys were too much for me to handle. Many apartments damaged to a point where no one wanted to rent to me again. Many times getting the call from schools, my boys suspended because the schools could not handle them. They are now adults, one in an adult foster home and one living on his own. They are no longer violent and I praise God for that.

  8. Their size can be such an issue. My 17 year old is 6 ft tall and (after losing 50 lbs) is 200 pounds. He often forgets his strength, and sometimes he gets really mad and loses it. Only once have I not been on guard with him, and forgot to duck..sore nose and shiner were great lessons for both of us. We have lucked out that this year he has a new school psychologist to meets with him weekly to work on the social issues of school. I am so glad you had someone who understood, because often people don’t get our kids. Understanding makes the biggest difference in how people respond to them.

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