#‎ArnaldoRios and Ableism

Given the events of this past week my mind has been reeling with emotions.  There is so much that needs to be said and done to help make our communities inclusive of all people.  So much wrong has happened and innocent individuals are hurt and traumatized.  One young man with autism (#‎ArnaldoRios‬) is having a very difficult time and is now hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital due to the trauma he endured.

I, too, have a son about Arnaldo’s age and I just recently had a fairly major issue in a local grocery store with him.  Unlike Arnaldo, my son does not sit still and he is verbal, but he jumps up and down, runs without awareness of safety, screams, yells and bites and hits himself –  and does not respond to verbal instructions – particularly when he is scared or when someone is yelling at him.  This happened before the incident with Arnaldo but it has made me feel more afraid for events in the future.

My son lives in home in a supported living arrangement.  He is part of our community – but that also comes now with added risks of being shot and abused by those untrained in how to work with people with disabilities – particularly those who are on the autism spectrum.   Living in homes in neighborhoods comes with the risk of running out into the street and being harmed.  We have to think of safety  and the risk of harm.  Many believe that parents error on the side of safety while other advocates think people need to be able to take more risk in their lives.  They believe that risk taking leads to learning.  This may be true but it also needs to be assessed for each individual.

Some people do need – or choose – to live in a campus based setting.  This type of setting provides a buffer of sorts from busy streets and also provides for an environmental setting that is clearly differentiated from those of busy, intersecting streets requiring one to be aware of traffic safety before adventuring out.  A campus setting does allow independence and freedom and risk taking while providing a safety net for those who need or want it. I would love to live in a campus type setting with mixed-housing for families, community members and people with disabilities.

A couple of questions that I have that I have not seen addressed in the many reports of this incident are:

  1.  If this was a known group home for people with intellectual disabilities or a mental health institution (I’m still not sure what type of home/facility it was) – why did the police not know about it and know that there may be a resident with a disability who may be in distress?  Are the police not aware of the neighborhoods they patrol?
  2.  Why was Arnaldo placed face down on the road, (handcuffed?) and forced to sit in the back of the police car for 3-4 hours?  Why weren’t other caregivers, family or mental health professionals called to tend to Arnaldo while Mr. Kinsey was transported to the hospital? It really should have been clear to the police by that time that they were out of their element and needed other help to manage the situation.

In an article written by David Perry he writes:

“Ableism leads officers to approach people with disabilities as erratic and dangerous. It also leads them to perceive noncompliant behavior as a sign of threat, rather than a sign of disability.”
He also writes about the principle of “ask-tell-make” a tactic many police are trained in.  “First you ask someone to comply with orders, then you order them, and then you make them through the use of force. It’s supposed to keep the officer safe, but some police trainers argue it’s a recipe for escalation and places both police and civilians in danger. Rather, such trainers argue, police need to take in the broader tactical situation when deciding how to respond, rather than simply keying off noncompliance”  Unfortunately this tactic is generally not appropriate for use when working with people with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or both of these disabilities.

I am glad that this issue is getting a lot of attention but I am so very sad about the trauma experienced by Arnaldo and Mr. Kinsey.  I have tears in my eyes every time I see a photo of the scene or of Arnaldo – I can’t help but think about my son and others I know if something like this ever happened to him.

Thank you, Mr. Kinsey for being there and caring.  You are a hero.





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