Andy's Blog

An ongoing series of informative entries

Blog No.1

I wasn't sure how to start this all, so began with a rabbit or two. I thought it would be best just talking about things around me, the book and policing in general; so here goes. Do let me know what you think and what if anything you would like to see.

It was a no-brainer for me at 19yrs old to join the best job in the world (and I honestly mean that) and was mightily surprised that they wanted me too. I had no idea that I was autistic back then, so everything was difficult which has since been explained by a hard fought diagnosis. It doesn't define who I am but does make it a lot easier to understand why and what I do on a daily basis; well to a certain degree anyway. 

The book came directly from all of that stuff I did at work, in the disability arena and a desire to genuinely want to help people. This was truly the overriding drive. There are still those who say autistic people are heartless or soulless, which couldn't be further from the truth. I always wanted to help people, any people and the police force enabled me to do that. I wanted to explain in writing how with only a few tweaks, any vulnerable person (not just autistic) could be assisted by the book. It is merely a minor change in the policing mindset which can achieve this, and from the feedback I have received so far, I feel I have succeeded. 

Policing is a minefield at the best of times but with all of the present problems has become a nightmare. Where once a level head and a kind word was all that was required to solve a situation, a pandemic adds a real element of imminent danger. A thought must be spared for those giving their lives (literally) to save and protect us all. Stay safe all on the thin blue line. 


Our Second Blog Entry

I was stuck at first for where to go when writing a second blog. The first was easy as it was an introduction but this one had to be more considered.

During lockdown, things in life have become more crystallised for many people and from what I have read, the neurodiverse community have felt it as keenly, if not more.

There are autistic people who have simply used it to re-catalogue their lives (some literally) as they dwell in ‘lockdown’ on a daily basis and apart from shopping being more problematic, things have not changed much. However, on the flipside, many who experience anxiety acutely, the lockdown period has simply compounded their fears to such a point that life has become almost unbearable.

Autism presents in so many different ways that documenting it is impossible, each of us find difficulty or pleasure uniquely. It will be argued that this is the same for neurotypicals and this is true; to a point. I have observed a ‘herd’ mentality with NTs where they will adopt or vocalise a conformative view (on the surface at the very least) which matches that of their contemporaries on most subjects, tv, music etc. This is not true of the autistic people I know.

They often are labelled (personally experienced) as all liking, doing, watching or eating the same things, when nothing could be further from the truth. Where a uniform admiration for sci-fi or fantasy literature is quoted as the ‘norm’, if the blanket statement is gently pushed aside, you will see absolute divisions exist in all genres. Autistic people far from being uninformed or unopinionated will have eloquent theses about their favourite subject matters if you are willing to engage with them.

So, if a daily activity is denied to the autistic person, coping strategies may well be missing and building new ones impossible. Some of us live in a perpetual state of anxiety where any further stress causes the body to shut down until we are capable of re-engaging. This is often termed as a meltdown, a phrase which I personally hate due to the negative connotations. I have struggled to invent another definitive word to describe it but have settled on Environmental Impact Factors (EIF). Not a catchy phrase I grant you, but this is exactly what causes such a reaction or lack of it (as no reaction can be just as worrying) – the environment the autistic person is in.

Good or bad can be equally impactive. Happiness can be an overwhelming emotion which NTs often dismiss as it is seen as such a positive situation how could anyone be uncomfortable with it? We can and often are. Give us some space and a safe place to speak about it and we may do just that.

Why pick this subject to blog about? Because it is important to explain how autistic people are thinking and feeling at the best of times and this is not the best of times. I wanted to give a small insight into our world and be honest about it, as I always try to be (sometimes too honest, but that is a whole different blog).

I will end this around here now if that is ok? For everyone in this immensely strange time please take especially good care of your mental health during lockdown and if in doubt talk to someone about it if unsure. To all, stay safe.


Blog 3.  The anniversary of Autism and the Police. 

The first time I saw Kevin he was being carried into custody sideways, kicking and spitting, “Bloody fought like a cornered dog, this one sarg... vile he is!” but even through the torrent of abuse, I could see the terror in his eyes and recognised a vulnerable person.

Unknown to everyone, it was the smell and textures in his cell that drove Kevin to the point of self-harm. He was neurodivergent (ND) but it was never picked up. I spoke to Kevin as a human being and reassured him that I was there to help and watched his fear slowly drain away.

It took a long time to earn Kevin’s trust and to enable him to tell me that he had anxiety, enough that whenever he saw me, he visibly relaxed, knowing he was safe. I did this by allowing him to do simple things like fold his clothing when booked in or have an extra blanket in his cell. These were in fact little things but made so much difference to Kevin and made his time in custody bearable.

Whatever I could do to help, I did. This wasn’t pandering to a criminal, it was applying the rules by which I always worked: the person in my custody was also in my care. I booked in hundreds of ‘Kevins’ both male and female and devised a strategy tailored to each of them.

Left unassisted, Kevin along with similar detainees would resort to self-harm and life attempts on a regular basis. Time and again I would be told that someone was ‘unapproachable’ only to find that if I could reduce their anxiety sufficiently, they would engage with me.

“How do you do it, sarg?” was a question I was asked time and time again and had to explain once more how I did it.

That’s why I wrote Autism and the police: to interpret autism to the police and the police to autistic people: to show what looks like ‘suspicious or unusual behaviour’ to an officer can have an innocent or logical explanation and to show what may seem an unreasonable police request to an autistic person can be just part of a lawful process.

I realised that by writing a book, my techniques and advice could reach a far greater audience than just the officer in front of me and get to the heart of the emergency services. My intention was to save lives and prevent as many people being unnecessarily arrested as possible.

It has been 1 year since publication and in that time there has been a great response from the policing family, fire service, paramedics and academics. The biggest acknowledgement has been from the autistic community who have embraced it. The feedback that has been the book is easy to read, relevant and the scenarios relatable and enjoyable.

My thanks go to everyone who has bought the book and for the wonderful comments and support I have received from around the world. I am on Twitter and Facebook if you want to contact me.

Stay safe.