After arrest video goes viral, local autism community seeks understanding with cops

After arrest video goes viral, local autism community seeks understanding with cops

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Recent video of Florida police arresting a 10-year-old boy with autism is sparking nationwide outrage. During the arrest, the boy pleads, "I don't want to be touched. Please don't touch me."

Dennis Maher, a parent of a child with autism, says the video reminds him of violent encounters with his own son when the boy was about 10-years-old.

"Spencer, my son, had violent meltdowns, and when he had them, the attack would be at us," said Maher.

Maher says officers were called to his home during a few violent incidents. He described one violent outburst where he restrained Spencer to prevent him from hurting himself or others, but the boy head butted him in the face.

When officers arrived, Spencer claimed his father was punching him.

"I had not hurt my son. I was only trying to stop him from hurting himself or others... It's a difficult situation, and unless they (police) really know how to act with these individuals, it's difficult for them as well," said Maher.

Experts say diffusing violent behavior for a person with autism can be difficult, and each scenario is different. That can cause police officers to mishandle a situation -- and, at times, make them worse.

That's why several autism organizations are coming together with Honolulu police for several meetings this summer.

"Our goal is to develop a relationship with HPD, give them awareness and education in they're interest. What are the characteristics of autism, what is the symptomology," said Amy Wiech, Founder and Executive Director of the Autism Behavior Consulting Group.

"HPD does not have a specific training class on autism we do touch on the subject during the course of our training curriculum, and annual recall training.  We are working on an Autism specific lesson plan to enhance our current training," wrote Assistant Chief Alan Bluemke.

Spencer is now 14, and his sisters created an inspiring video about accepting their brother's condition, and autism awareness in general.

"There are days that we wish we could pray the autism away, but I'm sure Spencer wishes there were days he could pray his sisters away," said Maher's daughter, Shelby, in the video. (click here to see video:

Maher says his son's condition has improved not with medication or therapy, but simply with maturity and having a better understanding of his own condition.

With no more violent outbursts at loved ones, Maher calls his son is a success story.

"Autism: Police and Families as Partners" meetings start in June and run through September in various locations.

District 1 - 6/10/17
Shriners Hospital 10am-12pm
(Autism 101 & Keiki ID)

District 3 - 6/24/17
Waimalu Elementary 1230pm-130pm

District 2 - 7/8/17
Mililani Ike Elementary 10am-11am
(Bullying Prevention)

District 7 - 7/1/17
Niu Valley Middle 1030am-1130am
(Sensory Needs)

8/19/17 Kainalu Elementary 10am-11am
(Sexual Abuse Prevention)

8/19/17 Maemae Elementary
(De-escalation Techniques)

9/9/17 Jefferson Elementary 9am-10am
(Communication and Social Skills)
September Date TBD Makakilo Elementary 10am-12pm (Developing Community Relationships & Keiki ID)

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