Autistic man arrested at train station for violent and anti social behaviour.
Yes that is the headline. It is the story of what happened to a 36 year old man with Autism called Philip. I have called him that to protect his identity. I work as a tutor to Philip, and have got to know him quite well.
Philip was at the train station one day when he got confused about which train to catch, and quickly became upset and agitated. When Philip gets anxious, he often displays extreme physical movements that because of his large size, appear threatening and intimidating. He also has great difficulty explaining things to people. This frustration and lack of emotional control, unfortunately leads to him swearing loudly.
To make matters worse, he has the classic autistic trait of misreading social situations. This adds to the confusion for all involved in the encounter.
Philips unusual and extreme physical behaviour, is often misinterpreted by people that don’t know him. On the occasion of his arrest, the police did not like his manner, or use of language. They assumed he was just a violent and aggressive trouble maker that was possibly either drunk, or under the influence of street drugs.
Philips over reaction to being confused at the train station, and his inability to explain what the problem was, quickly led the police to reach the wrong conclusion. Things spiralled out of control, and Philip was arrested.
All he wanted to do was get on the correct train.
When you get to know Philip, you’ll find that he is quite a gentle person. At the age of 36, his main passion in life is collecting photographs of London buses. These he files in his many photograph albums. Some of which carries around with him in a backpack.
Philip also has an encyclopaedic knowledge of 1980’s pop music. Everything from the singer, the song, whether it was released on vinyl, to the colour of the album cover artwork.
Philip lives a semi independent life. He travels around London on routes that he has become used to. But in public places he frequently finds himself in situations that he does not understand.
Philip had to attend court after his arrest. Luckily, after representation from a psychologist and social worker, he was not prosecuted.
A year after the event took place, Philip remains haunted by his encounter with the police. He is scared to go to the train station, and still obsesses over what took place. Some days I am unable to communicate with him, he will only talk what happened. His anxiety caused by the memory of being arrested, is overwhelming for him. He just cannot get over it.
Philips case brings up many of the problems faced by us higher functioning autistic adults. As children, our extreme behaviour may have been challenging for our parents to deal with in public, and onlookers may have put it down to either bad parenting skills, naughtiness or both. But as adults this behaviour often becomes an arrestable offence.
Philip is not alone in his battle with doing all the everyday things, that people do in society. I know of many autistic adults (including myself) that have had similar difficulties and misunderstandings, especially with people in authority.
I think the answer is two fold.
Firstly, we need more practical assistance from autism experts, that can help us learn how to cope, and not get into trouble, as we try to make our way in society. Secondly, there should be more autism awareness and education for Police, and anyone else that comes into contact with the general public.
Unfortunately, I feel that with both the lack of funding, and lack of political will here in the UK. Neither of these possible solutions will be implemented any time soon.
Thanks for reading