While tensions between police and the African-American community are currently at an all-time high, the struggles experienced by individuals with autism in engaging with police might go overlooked. Jake Lynn, an adopted 17-year-old from Maryland, inhabits both worlds, being both black and autistic.
According to a report this month by Wusa9.com, Jake’s mother, Jenn Lynn, acknowledged that being the mother of a teenager who is both black and autistic can be anxiety-inducing, due to concerns for Jake’s safety should he have an encounter with police.
“It’s scary being the mom of a black man,” Lynn said. “He says, ‘I’m your average, good-looking teenager, but if you would see me having a meltdown on the street, you might want to shoot me.'”
Jake, for his part, has gone out of his way to improve his interactions with police by wearing a bracelet clearly explaining his autism.
“He wears a bracelet that says, ‘I have autism’, Lynn explained. “When I’m scared, I can’t talk. I lose my words or, then I have anxiety, so I’m going to be scared.’ So, he is really trained to show his bracelet to all the police that he encounters.”
Jake also promotes autism awareness and understanding through his YouTube vlog, with videos covering “stimming,” the way that autistic brains function, and adolescence and growing up.
In response to negative incidents between law enforcement and people with autism, many police departments have initiated training programs to improve officers ability to identify individuals with autism and respond appropriately. On its website, the organization Madison House Autism explained that
“carrying notecards that clearly state that the individual has autism as well as what their specific needs are can be useful in effectively and quickly informing law enforcement officials without having to worry about miscommunication. Discussing what to do in the case of contact with the police and going over what to do and say can also be beneficial.”