Episode 3:  What is Autism?


In this episode of the Respect the Stim podcast, host Jerry Turning starts by defining autism and discussing the diagnostic process. He emphasizes the stress and tension families face during the diagnosis procedure and highlights the need for empathy when interacting with them. Jerry explains that autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning it affects individuals in various ways. He acknowledges the challenges of providing a one-size-fits-all approach and instead offers insights and "buckets" of areas where individuals with autism may be affected.

Jerry shares some statistics to highlight the prevalence of autism, with approximately 5.4 million adults diagnosed in the United States, making up around 2.2% of the population. He believes that this number may be underestimated due to the recent improvements in diagnosis and the existence of undiagnosed adults who were misdiagnosed or fell through the cracks. Jerry mentions that the diagnosis rate for children has been increasing, currently estimated at 1 in 36 kids.

The podcast episode focuses on educating law enforcement and first responders about autism. Jerry explains that encounters with individuals on the autism spectrum are inevitable, and it's crucial to recognize and understand their unique challenges. He emphasizes the significance of sensory challenges as a pillar for understanding autism, stating that grasping the differences in sensory experiences can lead to better communication and reduced friction. The next pillar he addresses is communication challenges, highlighting the need to overcome barriers and explore different ways of communicating effectively. Jerry concludes by mentioning the missing persons aspect, where the sensory and communication insights come together to enhance the chances of finding missing individuals with autism.

Overall, this episode provides an introduction to autism, its prevalence, and the importance of understanding sensory and communication challenges when interacting with individuals on the spectrum. The subsequent episodes will delve deeper into these areas and their application in locating missing persons.

Drawing from his own experiences and interactions with thousands of families worldwide, Jerry highlights two key reasons behind this fear. Firstly, families worry that law enforcement officers will misjudge their child's behavior, leading to potential harm. Secondly, they fear that if officers witness any disorder or struggle in their homes, they will be labeled as unfit parents and have their child taken away.

To address this perception issue, Jerry emphasizes the need for education and empathy within law enforcement. By understanding the unique challenges faced by individuals on the autism spectrum and applying empathy, officers can approach these calls with more sensitivity and effectiveness.

Jerry acknowledges that even as a police officer, he feels a similar hesitation when seeking help for his own special needs child. He admits that the nature of these interactions is delicate and often counterintuitive, requiring officers to go against their instincts and rely on alternative de-escalation techniques.

Throughout the episode, Jerry aims to plant seeds of awareness and understanding in the minds of his listeners. He emphasizes that while personal safety should always be a priority, officers should also consider the possibility of encountering individuals on the autism spectrum and approach such situations with caution and empathy.

By addressing this perception problem and fostering better understanding, Jerry believes that law enforcement can regain the trust and support of the special needs community, ensuring that families feel comfortable reaching out for help during emergencies.


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