Individuals with Autism and Police: What You Need To Know with Captain Gerald Turning

My listeners know that one of my goals is to keep all children as safe as possible. Sometimes safety concerns escalate and the need for law enforcement or other first responders is necessary. In this interview with autism dad, Captain Jerry Turning, we discuss a variety of safety concerns, how to tackle them, and the importance of training for both parents and first responders.

Connecting Parents and First Responders

As an autism parent and former police officer, Jerry has a wealth of information to share. His personal blog, Bacon and Juice Boxes, first brought these important topics to his eyes. It’s no secret that families can be afraid to contact law enforcement, whether they are afraid their child will be misunderstood  and hurt or that they as parents will be judged and risk their child being taken away. Jerry’s company Blue Bridge Training is committed to educating both parents and first responders on autism and safety, building a much needed bridge for these communities.

How To Alert Law Enforcement 

In this conversation, Jerry and I go over a variety of safety situations, including lost children and even dealing with physical aggression from adult children in public. We talk about some great tips and tools for parents and first responders. For parents, it is so important to plan ahead for emergencies, Jerry shares ideas for documents such as an emergency detail sheet all about your child readily available for police, as well as specialized ID or information cards for independent adults with autism to carry for interactions with law enforcement. First Responders for the most part want to help and safety is at the forefront of the mind, with trust and understanding parents and the professionals can communicate to keep everyone safe.

Getting To Know Your Local Law Enforcement

Parents are pros at advocating for their children when it comes to doctors, therapy, and school. This should not stop when it comes to the first responders in your community. Jerry gives great tips for introducing and teaching your local police all about your child. He offers a 5-day course on his website that dives into this really important tool for utilizing your community helpers and keeping your child safe.

Jerry is such a relatable autism dad with very valuable information to share. You can learn more about him and his company on his website, blog, and social media. Also be sure to check out his book Desperate Pursuits, a fiction novel about a police officer grappling with his son’s autism diagnosis and other hot button law enforcement topics. 

Autism and Police

Gerald “Jerry” Turning On The Turn Autism Around Podcast

Captain Gerald “Jerry” Turning is President of Blue Bridge, LLC:  a company dedicated to providing Autism Response training to Police and First Responders worldwide, as well as safety education and coaching to Special Needs families seeking to build critical relationships with their local First Responders. 

Captain Turning is a 25 year-veteran police officer who served most of his career as a K9 Handler, Trainer, and Supervisor.  He has served as Internal Affairs Commander, Patrol Division Commander, and Training Officer for his police department.

Captain Turning is also a proud Autism Dad, blogger at “Bacon and Juiceboxes”, and author of “Desperate Pursuits”, a novel based on the challenges facing a father coming to grips with his son’s diagnosis.


  • Why are parents afraid to contact first responders?
  • Why can first responders learn from autism parents?
  • The importance of trusting law enforcement with your emergencies.
  • How to contact or alert law enforcement during an emergency that involves autism.
  • How to introduce your child to law enforcement.
  • Safety concerns for children with autism.
  • The steps for de-escalating dangerous situations with law enforcement.  
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism?

Transcript for Podcast Episode: 161
Individuals with Autism and Police: What You Need To Know with Captain Gerald Turning
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Guest: Captain Gerald ”Jerry” Turning

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast. And today we have a very special guest. It is Captain Jerry Turning, who is the president of Blue Bridge, which is a limited liability company, which its mission is to train first responders around the whole world to provide, you know, safety, education and coaching. He also provides help for families of kids with autism and other special needs so that they can build relationships and they can train their local police departments and first responders as well. Jerry is also an author of a book and a blog and has an online training for caregivers, as well as another online training for first responders. So he has a wealth of information. We cover things like safety, what to do if 9-1-1 is called, how to advocate for your child and how to prepare for the worst so that we can keep our kids as safe as possible. So it's a great episode. Hope you love it! Let's get to Captain Jerry Turner.

Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host. Autism Mom, Behavior Analyst, and bestselling author Dr. Mary Barbera.

Mary: So, Jerry, thanks so much for joining us today.

Jerry: Thank you for having me. It's an honor.

Mary: Yeah, we just got to chat for like five or 10 minutes before we hit the record button. And we're both super excited because we have a lot in common in terms of wanting to get the message out about safety and how to interact with first responders, how to get them more on everybody on the same page. But before we dive into that, let's talk about your fall into the autism world.

Captain Gerald “Jerry” Turning on The Turn Autism Around Podcast

Jerry: Sure. My son, his name is Eric, was diagnosed in two thousand seven. He's 17 years old and I think my story and how we have been brought into this world is pretty common. Around two and a half years old, he was missing his milestones and. And it's interesting. My wife knew something was going on well before I did, and I think that's pretty common with dads. I spent some time in denial. And by the time he was two and a half/three years old, we knew that there was there was something we had to get to to address. So we got our diagnosis around two and a half/three years old. And it's been it's been an amazing journey with him since, and I've grown a lot. He's grown a lot and I can't imagine my life before all of this. So, yeah, now that he's 17, it's you look back and you're like, Where would a time go? Like, What? Where did that go? I blink my eyes and now he's he's a young man with the challenges of an adult on the spectrum that that we have to now deal with. So it's been an incredible journey. And I. I really don't recognize the person I was before this, because it really has steered my life into an area that was new to me and different and scary as I was being brought into it, but really has been has been an amazing, amazing part of my life since.

Mary: Well, yeah, it's interesting you said that you were in denial and that, yeah, your wife recognized the signs. Actually, I don't think it's always the case where the mom is because I was the one in denial that my husband first mentioned the possibility. And you were police officer at the time. And then the other instance I can think of off the top of my head is shall see who we did an interview with a success story interview. We can link that to the show notes. Her husband is a police officer, and he recognized the signs and she was in denial, and then she did an about face. So it's interesting. I do think, and I did a one of my very, very first video blogs years ago is on denial because I think in two parent households, one person is in denial more than the other. And that does present quite the challenge. But anyway, I am glad that you know your wife was able to identify some of the signs and get them diagnosed. So is your son functioning kind of where on the spectrum?

Jerry: He's middle functioning, he's verbal, has a pretty vast vocabulary, are hurdle with my son. Besides the anxiety, which is our major monster that we try to deal with is expressive language and he has challenges expressing himself. And it's been it's been really challenging for me and my wife to separate those two things that he is verbal. So you know you. Why isn't he able to to to tell us these things and communicate? And it's been interesting that the expressive language part of this is pretty separate from his, his verbal ability and his vocabulary. And as a parent, it's been it's been hard to deal with that and come to grips with how those two things can be so on two different tracks. You know, we can recite the scripts to his favorite movies and and come out with words vocabulary, but have challenges telling us how his day is going or what he's afraid of or what he's frustrated over. That's been that's been hard for us as parents to understand and get come to grips with. So that's his major hurdle. Yeah.

Jerry’s Blog and Book

Mary: So I know you have both a blog and a book, so which came first, and you just want to tell us quickly about the blog and the book.

Jerry: Sure. Well, the blog came before everything when I was early on during this process, after our diagnosis, I didn't handle it well. I had a lot of emotions, and I'm a very introverted person by nature. So I had a lot of these things coming through me guilt, anger, fear, all of these things that were going on with me early on during this curveball that was thrown at me as a dad with facing the diagnosis of my son. So do to process it. And to give myself a little cheap therapy. I just started writing about it, and I never dreamed anybody would ever read it. I just would just write about my emotions and me processing this thing.

Mary: And what's the title of the blog

Jerry: Bacon and juice boxes. I picked that because early on, that's all my son would eat, his diet was very limited and it sounded quirky. And I just picked that out of out of out of the air, actually. One day I got brave enough to post what I was writing on on a Facebook page I created with that name and a blog and. I couldn't believe people were reading it, and I started to get thank you's from across the world and me to people sharing, like by thanking me for expressing these emotions that they were dealing with and really took me by surprise that what I was writing and dealing with resonated with people, and I did not leave a lot out. I made it very raw and I I tried not to fall down the road of making this a romantic thing. I shared the good and the bad and the fears and the triumphs. And before I know it, I had people following me. And it was really cool. But when I first started, I never told anybody that I was a cop. I was just a dad in New Jersey who was dealing with these things and putting it out there. And about two years in, I think in passing on one of the comments on my post site kind of mentioned I was also a cop. And that changed a lot for me because I started to get a lot of questions and concerns and expressions of frustration and fear from parents like me around the world about their kids interacting with with law enforcement and really rung my bell because I wasn't, I wasn't prepared for it. And my dad was a cop growing up and I am a cop, obviously. So I had this vision of police officers as this great force of good and the good guys and the people who call for help. And to hear people like me around the world expressing fear and anxiety and nervousness. And all these negative emotions surrounding law enforcement really knocked me for a while and changed my kind of my perspective on what it is that I do. And I did some soul searching and realized that if I'm being completely honest, I'm scared too. Back then, my son was, you know, six, seven, eight years old when I started writing, and the things he was doing behaviorally were cute and a temper tantrum for a six year old. You can kind of put them in your pocket and take care of. As I looked into the future and I saw my son growing to be a young adult and these behaviors showing no signs of going away anytime soon at that point really kind of woke me up. Wow I am kind of afraid to. And these people that I consider brothers. And these people I have served with and would do anything for. The reality is, I don't think they're prepared to handle my son. All right, so. So really changed my perspective. Yeah. When I finally decided as I was writing these things, my audience grew. People would say in passing, You know, you should write a book, you should write a book. And I said, Yeah, it's kind of a cool thing to do. At some point, there are tons of books out there on autism. I didn't want to write a nonfiction book, honestly because I didn't even think I have the expertize to even put my my toe in that area. I didn't feel qualified. But what I've always been able to do is use creative writing to get it, to show a message or to put a message out there. So eventually, with a lot of prodding from people who followed me and a lot of nudging from my wife, I decided to sit down and tackle this, this thing of writing a novel. And I never I didn't imagine how hard it was going to be when I started, but I did. So I wrote. I wrote a novel, a novel called It's called Desperate Pursuits and it is fiction, and I need everybody to understand that. The first call I had to make when I finish it is to my mom because in my novel, the protagonist happens to be a police officer who happens to be very handsome and very charming, but has to wrestle with his diagnosis of his son. And handles it wrong, handles it poorly, and the novel revolves around the the father's perspective in coming to grips with with this, this curveball in his life. But it's fiction. So what I did is it's based on a lot of my, my experiences and my emotions. But I did fictionalize it in a way to make the story dramatic. So the first thing I do is call my mom and say, Listen, mom, I wrote this thing. You're going to recognize a lot of the scenarios and a lot of the things in this book. But it's not me. It's a fictionalized character of a dad. It's kind of an amalgam of all of the stories I've heard of the challenges that dads have gone through. And I and it's centered in a world of a police officer who I also want to take the opportunity to deal with a lot of those issues that we're dealing with with society and in how we view police officers and how kind of some some of the topics that are in the news today in terms of race relations and how we are wrestling with those issues. So I wrote about what I know, wrote about what I've experienced, and I called upon the emotions that I've dealt with in my life with my son. And I'm really, really proud of the outcome of the result of what this is now as another vehicle I've been able to use to tell our story as parents, tell our story as cops, humanize all of us. All of those identities that I have as a cop, as a parent, as a man, as a person, as a dad and humanize that in a way that I think is an entertaining story. And I think sends a message that I've been itching to put out there for a long time in a way that's dramatized and is fiction. So kind of gives me that little little bit of a shield to say, Oh, it's just a fictional. It's just a story. This is drama, and you have to go through the story arc of the characters. But what I have to say resonates. I think so. That's kind of what I'm most proud of.

Mary: Yeah, that sounds great. We have we will link the Desperate Pursuits book and the bacon and juice boxes in our show notes. And I also have done a few interviews with autism dads. We can link those on the show notes, including with my husband, Charles Barbera, who happens to be an emergency medicine physician, and he and with a little help for me. But it was mostly his initiative years ago, probably 15 years ago, over a decade, for sure. He led this initiative in our county to distribute books for first responders. And but it has been a long time and I know it's just a big problem. So we really want to dove in to this issue of how do we train first responders even on a family level? And then how do we get better training for them so that they are up? Because part of the problem is the vast differences between one person with autism and another. It's just it's so it's such a big problem. And then you couple on the recent problems with with police officers and racism and all those things. Yeah, I mean, they're not new topics, but they are certainly becoming more and more apparent. And then you add autism on top of it.

Building A Bridge Between Parents and First Responders

Jerry: Yes. And that's the first challenge I have to overcome is as cops, I think I think most people, any professional, whatever your industry you want, like kind of a template like, OK, what do I do? Hit me. And they want a flowchart. Like, if this happens, then you do this and and guide me through it. And the first challenge I have is listen, guys. And it's a cliché now. But if you've met one person on the spectrum, you've met one person. And I can't give you that universal go-to template of how to navigate these situations. And I don't try. What I can do is give you some insights and some perspective and some understanding of the of the challenges that these individuals face and give you. That's what I try to do is give them a tool bag to draw from so that when they find themselves in a situation where they have to navigate these calls, that they can try different things. Understanding that listen, it might not work. And this person's sensory profile is different than this person's and they have different challenges and communication. OK, so you try this, OK, be nimble back off. That doesn't work. Try this strategy, but don't give up. And you know, you just have to kind of muddle your way through sometimes. But that's OK. But here's this education about us, about our farm. And it's not just the person on a spectrum, by the way. It's the families too. And you're going to end, you're going to meet us at our lowest. You are going to be called to our house, God forbid, at our lowest point in our lives. And the first thing I have to do is try to convince you not to judge us, to reserve judgment and just give us the benefit of the doubt. It's a very low bar. I'm trying to meet here. Just give us the benefit of the doubt that we are good parents, that we are trying our best and we just need help in this moment and don't over generalize us as failures, right? And listen, that's that's where I start. And I think where I've been successful is I I speak, I say we right. I'm training cops and I say we are back and I say we in the context of we as parents and we as context as us cops, right? So I'm both. I find myself straddling two communities that I love deeper, right? And the reality is our communities don't talk very well. We don't communicate well. But we need each other. We need each other desperately. And I have been in the situation as a dad where I've desperately needed help with my son needed help. I've lost my son five times, lost. Now listen, I spent my entire career in K9. I was the guy that you called to come find your kid. That was what I did. And me, I teach this stuff right. I do classes to cops on how to find missing kids. I have lost my son five times.

Mary: We probably have lost Lucas five times as well. And one time was security was called one time. Like the security at the mall, one time police were called. I was at a conference speaking at a conference and Lucas left the house, which he has never done like. In the middle of that, you know, in the morning, he's left the house a few times. I mean, it is absolutely panicked when that happens. And I also know people. I know one of my clients who I had when he was two and three, he drowned in a neighbor's pool. When he was six, he wandered away from his house. I did an interview with his mom, Melissa. We can hopefully link that in, the show notes. It's a really powerful interview after he drowned. And you know, it is. I know people who lose their kids and then call the police and then or lose their kids and a neighbor, then calls CYS, children and youth services. And people are, you know, even with Melissa, who lost her son in a tragic drowning. You know, she was getting like hate comments like, what were you doing? You weren't watching your kid? Well, actually, he was not with Melissa when he wandered away. But you know, you know how hard it is to watch a child, 24/7. I know how hard it is. And in a lot of cases, Lucas is wandering really stopped at age 10, but from age two to 10 were white knuckling.

Jerry: Yeah, yeah. And it's what I what I try to do is tell those stories to other cops as a cop, but as a dad saying, Listen, we all drop the ball sometimes, and we operate as parents at a Level 10 alert at all times. I have not gone to a family picnic with my wife in 17 years and sat down and enjoyed a meal together. We eat in shifts, right? This is our and this is not a complaint, OK? This is not me saying woe is me. I'm just communicating the challenges we have as parents, right? Sometimes our best isn't good enough. Sometimes situations happen and we need help. Right? And here's the thing. This has been a part of this journey for me is hearing from other parents around the world. And I keep saying it's the world I got. I have a big following in Australia for some reason. But I hear from people saying that a lot. I hear this that they would hesitate to call 9-1-1 for help. That in an emergency, whether it be an emotional crisis with their child or God forbid, they lose him or her or any kind of situation, they would rather deal with it themselves than call 9-1-1 for help. As a cop, that's a kick in the gut for me. Like, I consider myself the good guy, the person who helps people and to know that there are families out there like mine. Who would hesitate to call me and rather deal with these situations on their own and call for help really bothers me. So I've dug into this topic. I ask parents why? Why? Two reasons they give me and they're kind of an equal batch is the first reason is they're afraid we're going to come and hurt their kid. We're going to misunderstand what they're dealing with. Treat them as some kind of criminal and physically hurt him. And I understand that I get that part. But equal to that is this other reason that is equally troubling. And that is, they're afraid they're going to be judged. They're afraid that if they call for help, some person of authority, whether it be a police officer, an EMT or a social worker, or somebody going to come to their home, judge them as unfit parents and take away their kid. And that's legitimately what thousands of parents out there feel. When I communicate that to two police officers in a training situation, I see their jaws drop. I see their entire face change to understand that's the way they feel about us, guys. That's the way they feel. They're afraid to call us for help because when we come, we're going to judge them or we're going to take away their kids. Everything changes at that point when I say that, and I say that from a perspective of. And guess what? I feel it too. Right? In each of these five times, I've lost my, I've lost my son at a mall near my house. I've lost him at my front door. I've lost him on my back door. I've lost him in the desert, in Palm Springs, and I've lost him at SeaWorld Water Park. Well, in each of those times. Me, the expert, the guy's training you how to find kids. I have hesitated to call for help. For me personally, it was a sense of embarrassment. Oh my God, I'm a cop, I don't lose my kid. This doesn't happen, but it happened. And each of those times I put my son at risk because internally I felt this hesitation to call you for help. Right? I'm not proud of that. And believe me, I'm ashamed of that. But that's reality, and that's what we deal with. So the first thing we got to do is and I spent half my time training cops, the other half teaching parents, Listen, I know this is hard. I know this is a challenge, but you have to you have to trust at some point, and it's not OK for you to spend an hour combing your neighborhood with your husband, looking for your child and never think to call the people who have the manpower or the assets. The ability to come help you because it's a dangerous situation. And I got to get through that barrier with parents like that, like you have to have to call.

Mary: So if if a child, I think these are really good points, if a child does go missing from your experience, which is best more experienced than I've ever heard of in a person that I've interviewed. So what should a parent do?

Missing Child, What To Do:

Jerry: Here's the thing. First, first of all, accept that you are going to lose your mind, except that this is going to be the most emotional gut punch, you have felt OK, that's going to happen. A lot of this you have to do. You have to prepare beforehand, OK? And it's like, and this has been a challenge for me too. It's like, it's like drawing up a will. It's like buying life insurance. Nobody wants to deal with these issues. Nobody wants to put themselves in an emotional place to deal with these issues before they absolutely have to. I'm guilty of it too, right? But you have to treat it as an insurance policy. So a lot of this you have to do beforehand as a preparatory thing. And the first thing we have to do is cobble together information. Right now I offer it. I can give you the link for it. I offer it. It's a form that we can fill out with a lot of basic identifying information about our case. Just basically height, weight, that kind of thing, but also a sensory profile. What turns them off? What what might cause him to run away? What might draw him in after he runs away? Where does he like water? Does he like dogs? Will he seek shelter or will he know he's in trouble? Will know he's lost? All of these things that you can sit down beforehand and just jot it there. So God forbid, when an emergency happens, you don't have to cobble all this together while your emotional state and give it to the cops who may not know to ask. Right? But if you have a document and I mean everywhere, put it in your car, put a copy on your refrigerator, give it to your in-laws, give it anywhere your child might be. When this happens, when the nightmare scenario strikes, you can just whip out this piece of paper and hand it to them rather than have to cobble together. So a lot of is that right? Number two is and I and I know you haven't heard it, but I do. I preach this a lot. I can do the training part right. I can. I can get to every cop in the country and train them, and I'm working my butt off doing it and a lot of good people that I know are doing it. The reality for me is I can bring Temple Grandin herself to every police department in the country and give top state of the art training to these officers. It wouldn't hold a candle to 15 minutes in a room with your child, with your son, with your daughter, whoever it is that you care the most about on the spectrum. You have to get in the game with this, and this is not a spectator sport. Take some time. Take 15 minutes. Go to your local police station. Introduce them to your child. Just say hello, my name is Mary. I live on one two three Main Street, this is my son, Jack. He is on the autism spectrum. He's autistic. Whatever terms you use doesn't matter at this point. I would just like you to meet him and let them organically meet your child. But here's the thing. Before I was brought into the world of autism, I didn't know what stimming was. I didn't know the sensory things that our kids deal with. I didn't know the communication challenges. I've learned all that through experience with my son now, I'm pretty good at and we all had all of us, parents can walk through the mall and pick out our kids like radar. We all have it. We didn't. We didn't learn that from textbooks. We learned that through living it. I believe that can be taught. And I believe the best way to teach that to law enforcement, first responders is just getting them in a room with our kids and letting them see the hard facts, let them see the stems. Let them hear the vocalizations and break down those those barriers that exist because I can teach them with PowerPoint and I can show them videos as an expert. But until they see your individual child, that they won't really kind of grasp it. Does that make sense? Yeah. So if they, when the nightmare strikes and you need help and you call 9-1-1, if the best case scenario is they already know you, they've already met your son when he's been calm. They've already they already know that, that he loves the water and he loves Batman. And this isn't some pie in the sky dream. I think this is easy. This can happen. I see work that when when these officers responding to your home already know your child, the chances of success. Escalate. Unbelievable. The message I have to parents, though, is this is not an unreasonable request. This is a valid request. It is a valid request to go to your police department or fire department, your EMTs and introduce them and ask that they get to know your child.

Mary: Do you do you recommend calling scheduling an appointment just showing up? Like how? How do you go about that? Certainly call 9-1-1 to introduce. So let's just kind of walk through it like practically what if, if I wanted to introduce Lucas to? I mean, the other good thing is Lucas grew up here. He's twenty five now. He went to the he's gone to the school. He's gone to church. He's gone to restaurants. And a lot of the community know my husband, know me. So they don't necessarily know Lucas and his wants and needs and, you know, level of stemming and everything. But they know our family. So I'm sure it's even more challenging if you're new to the community. If you're new to a neighborhood, even in or even introducing your child to neighbors and telling them he has autism, if you see him out of the house, that's not good, you know? Please, here's my cell phone number. Here's my, you know, this is how he responds.

Meeting Law Enforcement and Introducing Your Child

Jerry: You're a thousand percent right and and I don't want to I want to make sure I express this. I know how hard this is. I am guilty of all the mistakes I claim to preach that they don't do. And this community that we're in the special needs community is very isolating and it's very hard for us as parents to to do these things that I'm expressing that we have to do. I actually have built an entire course, a five day course on how to do what you asked to, to take these steps to introduce your child to your police department. And I would give them that link too. It depends. A lot depends on the size of the community for a very small town with four cops. Just, I mean, you just go to your go to your police station and say, hi, when you now go into NYPD or L.A. or Atlanta or these major metropolitan areas, things get a little a little different. You have to kind of do some things differently, but it's still not impossible. How you do it is, is it depends on a lot of. What you're comfortable with. You could try sending an email. You could try showing up and just walking in. You could try calling. All of these things are on a table and you have to make that decision based on your comfort level and what you what you feel comfortable doing. What happens is parents automatically feel that they're asking for a favor or asking for something they're not entitled to. Or I get this a lot. My police department is so busy they have better things to do. No, that is not true. I don't care where you live, if you live in the Bronx or LAPD in the Crenshaw district or anywhere you live. They do not have a higher priority than to form a relationship with the people that they're there to serve. And that may sound romantic or corny. I don't care. See, police chiefs understand they've embraced this. Community policing has been the way this is trending for decades. And any police chief or a leader understands that the way to do the job now is to get your officers out of the police car, get them in the community, get them to establish relationships. The dirty little secret for any detectives. Ask them. Call me on this. Any detective will tell you. Crimes are solved, not by fancy CSI technology and DNA evidence and clues and crimes are solved through relationships. Crimes are solved by somebody you treated decently five years ago. Even somebody you arrested five years ago, but treated decently, picking up the phone, calling you and saying, Hey, detective, I heard this thing went down last week, I might know something about this. Relationships is the way this is done now. So you're not breaking new ground. We're not asking for something. You're not asking for some grand favor to ask your police department. It's in their best interest, by the way, to meet your child and establish this kind of rapport. You're giving them the ability to more easily navigate these calls when they come in. And any chief, any leader understands that. OK. You do. You will. I do get get this once in a while you'll get well, we don't have time. Come back next Monday or call us if he ever gets lost. You'll get the brush off. I won't lie, it's possible, but I think. The parents that are persistent with it that take these steps, God forbid he ever use it and I and I hope that's the case, but I truly believe that's the path forward not waiting around for some white knight in shining armor to come in and do this magical training to police departments. Yeah, it's critical. But the other half of this is forming that relationship.

How To Place A Call Or Alert Law Enforcement During Physical Aggression Safety Concerns

Mary: Let's talk about, you know, kids as they get older and they're not wandering, but they may still have problem behaviors in the community. So I know with Lucas, we we do have his knock on wood aggression at zero levels. And, you know, but there were points when he was between 14 and 18 before we figured out a medication that actually helped him with his startle and his pain reflexes. And that is actually documented in a podcast I did with his psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Murray, which we can link in the show notes. But his aggression is gone. But you know, when he was going through points when he'd be aggressive, it was mostly when he was out in the community, when he was startled, when there was a lot going on. Sensory wise and sensory system just couldn't deal with it. And a lot of times it would happen not with me or my husband, but with like a worker would take him out. And I remember thinking and asking my husband like, Oh my god, what if somebody calls 9-1-1 like Lucas has autism and intellectual disability? And I legitimately have that question, I mean, I've done lots of work I get I can post a video blog I did on IQ is an intellectual disability, but does that provide a safeguard like what happens? What should we do? Just say we have a 20 year old who's over 200 pounds. It doesn't matter how big they are, but they are becoming aggressive and 9-1-1 is called and you are, you know, the police that show up don't know you or him or anything like, what should you yell out like? He has autism, intellectual disability, like, I don't know. Like how that works.

Jerry: That yes, that's the nightmare, right? And that's that's what jars all of us as parents awake in the middle of the night is our child being misunderstood and somebody coming and misunderstanding mis interpreting what they're seeing. And believe me, that is what I focus on hard when I do my training with officers, but as a parent, when you fight, when you find yourself in that situation, if it's you who are calling 9-1-1, if you need help, get it out there, often loudly and undeniably vocally that my child is not even enough to say my child has autism, my child has autism. He won't understand if he's told to put his hands up, I mean, make the dispatcher the person fielding that call.

Mary: On the call when you're calling for help.

Jerry: Hit them in the mouth with it, right? And make sure they understand. This is not my because I've written about this and it's so hard to talk about. Understand how this works, right? As a police officer, I'm going to turn it around completely 180 degrees, and it's might help answer the question as a cop. We get into the job. I wanted to become a cop because I wanted to help people. Corny as it sounds, that is what I wanted to do, right? I wanted to help people I wanted to serve. I wanted to make the world safe for democracy and combat evil and all those grand things I wanted to do as a teenager when I decided I wanted to become a cop. When you become a cop, you are punched in the face with the world, and a lot of our world is ugliness, right? That involves domestic violence situations that involves people being preyed upon, that involves just the face of evil. OK. And you can't be a cop for more than six months before you've been pummeled with ugliness. Right? And you're going to see a lot and we are going to unfortunately, we see a lot of domestic violence situations and we see women victimized and we see kids being hurt. You wouldn't be a human being if that didn't affect you. OK. So when the call comes in that you have a 200 pound man wrestling around the parking lot with a woman, whether it's no she's his mom or not from the outside or who's calling for help is putting that over the phone. I there's a 200 pound man resting around the woman resting on a parking lot of Wal-Mart. This woman, he's helped send help, right? That's how that gets dispatched to the cop, to the regular guy. The 23 year old kid who thinks he's a good guy wants to save the world and you're the victim and he's going to come there. He's going to save you, right? That puts in motion a momentum that that officer is coming there with a mindset to kick to take care of business. Right? Automatically thinking that person is a bad guy, he's trying to hurt you. It's his job to save you. That's bad news for us as parents, right? That's where this gets really ugly, really quickly. But it's crazy for you to think it's going to happen. Otherwise, it's unrealistic for you as a parent to think that you can short circuit that. Because the forces you're pushing against are this cop's entire career, he's seen the ugliness he's seen domestic violence and he's seen victimization in a lot of ways. You need that cop coming there with that mindset to save you, OK? But here's the thing you can short circuit it if you put out there clearly. My son this this is my son. He's on some spectrum. He's not. He's not a criminal. He's not trying to rob me. I mean, throw it out there for everybody to see. You have, to be..

Understanding The Steps and Necessary Precautions for Law Enforcement Answering A Call

Mary: Does like intellectual disability with a low IQ? Is that like, I can't imagine anybody would arrest Lucas and take him to prison.

Jerry: Like, No, here's the thing that's step five. Arresting him and take him to prison is step five. We're still on step one. All right. I know you're still here. You're still here. You're in the middle of it. And you have a police car screeching to a halt. Lights and sirens and the guy jumping out, right? That's the real. First thing you got to do is make sure that that officer doesn't jump on your son and physically hurt him. Right? Worry about charges later. OK? The first thing you gotta do is make sure that that officer doesn't come out of his car and overestimate the level of force he's he's going to need to to subdue Lucas. OK. We got to talk about this, too. This is not easy to talk about. Understand this. The officer's job? Whether we like this or not, as parents, the orchestra's first job is your physical safety. That's number one. It has to be that way. The trauma and the damage emotionally, he can do the Lucas, all that that has to fall down the priority list right off the bat. Mm-Hmm. Right. So that and I will never stand before a group of officers and say that they have to sacrifice their safety or your safety on the altar of you're going to cause emotional trauma to the individual. OK, I can't do that and I can't and I won't. All right, because I've been there, right? So if? If the officer gets there and he feels that there is a necessity to physically restrain Lucas, which may include handcuffs, that's just a tool. Man, I as a dad, yeah, it's going to be it's going to cripple me. And that officer may be wearing me. OK, that emotion of seeing my son being handcuffed is going to be just brutal. But if you can understand, OK, what's put this in perspective? His first priority is physical safety of everybody involved. He may have to physically restrain my son. OK. That may include handcuffs. OK. All right. But you can't let your imagination run away with you where that now goes to. And then they're going to whisk them away and they're going to put him in jail forever and i'll never see my son again. That's not the case. Physically restraining him can just be temporary. Right, right. And you've got to as a mom, you've got to keep yourself in the game because now you have just turned into his probably only advocate in that situation. So you may be hurt, you may be injured. Or you maybe hurting a lot, but you have to understand. Now I have to make this officer understand, OK, you restrained him. The scene is now physically safe. Now understand this. He's not a criminal, OK? He is. He is not a danger to society. He is having an emotional, traumatic event right now. And now we have to we have to de-escalate this. All right. I'm not judging you first restraining him. I get that. OK? But now we have to de-escalate this and you have to understand that I am now the expert. Me, as a parent, I don't care what training you have. I know more than you, and you have to make sure they understand that because where this really gets really bad for us is when they need the help they have. Luke is restrained, handcuffed and they still maintain judgment that he is a criminal. That and then that's where see, I spent a lot of my career in internal affairs, right? I was the internal affairs commander. It was my job to field complaints from people. And the reality is most of our internal affairs complaints to the police department aren't excessive force issues. They're not use of force issues. None of the bad stuff that makes the headlines, most of the complaints that come in or how you make somebody feel right. So what I stand before a group of cops and I say, Listen, I, I've come to terms with the fact you may have to someday physically restrain my son. I'm OK with it.Where you are going to lose me. And where I began to become your worst nightmare is if you then. Mistreat him and A: embarrass him, lose his dignity. Treat him like a criminal. God forbid you go overboard or physically hurt him after it was necessary, then you're going to have a real problem with me, and I have no problem telling you that. That's where this gets really.

Mary: As you're talking, Jerry, I'm thinking my husband and I have guardianship, which deems Lucas incompetent. I would think that that would trump everything in terms of he could not be imprisoned.

Jerry: No. That's the step five if we want to get to a to charge him criminally with a crime. You have to prove intent. He had to knowingly intend to do whatever he's charged with in this event. What are you talking about? It would probably be assault, right? A simple assault where he struck you. Whatever pulled at you wish to be able to charge that you'd have to have to prove that he wanted to hurt you. There's an automatic short circuit of that. If he has an intellectual disability, you are his guardian. You explain to them rational. Listen. I don't need you to come save me and arrest him as a bad guy. I need you to come help me deal with this emotional crisis with my son. Right? That's where you have to go into advocate mode and explain to them what the situation was. And I got to tell you, we all see the horror stories. We all see these things happen. I am a 98 percent confident at today where we are today. This might be different 15 years ago where we are today. The level of education in law enforcement is high enough that. They would be listening to you as you explain this. They would not want to, but we don't want to arrest people. We don't what we don't get anything from that. There's no sick glory we get to putting somebody in jail. The biggest problem now is we as cops this might branch off into a different discussion. We, as cops feel, could we get in trouble? This is real. Am I exposed legally? Am I exposed civilly? Do I have some liability here? If I listen to this mom, say, Listen, I got this now. Thank you for having me control him. I got this. Do I have a liability if I just drive away? Right. Because what if this explodes again? And here I am...

Mary: Or if Lucas would be aggressive towards a stranger toward somebody else? Like, Yes, and that's another thing because, you know, you know, and I don't think I think your your guidance on this is great in terms of like, let's just stay with the safety issue first, getting him under control, then, you know, given the fact that he's either a minor or, you know, older kids, hopefully you would have documentation somewhere, not on you with guardianship or intellectual disability or something that you know. But I think your advice about like, don't just go like, I'm not calling 9-1-1 because I don't want them to. God forbid, take him to jail. And you know, I think all of that's good. And I also do want to say that, you know, in addition to introducing to neighbors and and and police departments and all of that stuff, we also need to educate ourselves on safety. And I've done a lot of work on that from a behavior analyst point of view, from an RN, point of view, from a mom. Chapter three of my new book, Turn Autism Around, is all about safety, where I document, you know, the child that I know that drowned and and how to put real safety things in effect for the home, for school, for the community. And I think I can draw up in the show notes a safety bonus video that might help you. I know you have online courses. You know, I think this is, you know, a great first discussion with Jerry, who really knows so much. And I don't want anybody to panic thinking about all the things we talked about, either because we are on a 10 on our alert. So I think the things we can do is we can learn about safety, put some things in place. You know, when Lucas was little, he wore a life alert bracelet. Now he carries a wallet everywhere he goes. That's part of his routine. He gets his wallet like he does it. We don't have to remind him. He has a non-driver I.D. in his wallet on the back of his ID. I also have print it out like on a label printer, my phone number. Even teaching kids that language like my son, is verbal, too. But he's not conversational, but he can recite his first and last name. He can spell his last name. He can tell them my phone number. He can tell him his address. And those are good safety. I'm sure you would agree.

Tools For Protecting Your Child With Autism

Jerry: Yes, and it's funny. I have a card like that, too, that I've developed that came out of nowhere where a mom who vocal to me, her son was high functioning and was getting his driver's license, but she was scared to death. And this is real, and I try to force myself because we all automatically take things from our perspective, in our child's perspective. But I had to force myself to understand there are higher functioning people out there. My son is not going to drive any time soon. Right? It's just not in the cards. But there are many, yes, individuals who are driving, but the stress, the anxiety of being stopped by a police officer. I feel it. I'm a cop and I feel it. When those lights go on behind you, it triggers something.

Mary: Or even if you have an accident and the cops show up. So now you're like, you know, it's causes panic for even that somebody who are neurologically intact.

Jerry: So somebody who can, you know, in a stress free environment, communicate very well and drive and operate a car and have a job and career. Kids throw in that anxiety and they lose the seen it. They lose the ability to communicate. And when you have a police officer drop on your window, he's in a mode where he's trying to protect himself. And he's seen a lot of bad things and you don't talk and you can't communicate that just just it's a it's a perfect storm of bad situation. So she wanted this mom reached out to me, said, Do you know anything about a car that I can give to my son with his driver's license or any stock? You can have a driver's license and this card? I didn't know anything, so I said, I'll make one for you. So I made up a car to says, Hi, I'm on the spectrum. This is my name. On the back is just what you said. Contact information of a caregiver and any other text. You want anything for her. She wanted to say, I may lose the ability to communicate in a stressful situation and just hand it to the cop with your driver's license. Well, when I put that on my website, on my my Facebook page. It blew up, and I did I've literally created I just did a bunch today, 1500 of these. They've gone all over the place the Philippines, Australia, Great Britain, all over the country for this very scenario.

Mary: So we can link that in the show notes too.

Jerry: Sure. It's completely free. I don't charge anything. It's just something I believe in. But it's not a it's not a magic bullet, right? It's not the end all, be all. And it's not going to fix all of our problems, but it's just one more tool. And I know a lot of parents are weary of putting identifying stickers on their cars or anything like that or. And I get that safety thing, too. It's just one more tool where it may help you in this, in your specific situation with your loved one. Anything we can do to give our our kids one a little bit of added ability to advocate for themselves or communicate what their challenges are is a plus.

Mary: Yeah, I think we we do need to wrap it up because we're we're going, you know, we've been talking a long time and I think this this information is just so, so valuable. So I know you developed an online course and you know you have information. So how can people follow you? Buy your books? I mean, we can link those in the show notes, but like if somebody really wants to, like, get in touch with you, they do. Are there books that we could buy to like we did 10 or 15 years ago where we bought 100 books and gave them out to police departments and that sort of thing in conjunction with bringing our kids there or what?

More About Captain Jerry and His Mission

Jerry: The way I set my company up is I. I look at it as as a 50/50 thing half of what I do is trained police departments. So as a parent, what you can do is my website is The name of my company is Blue Bridge Autism Training. My Facebook page is Blue Bridge Training. Make a pain in the butt of yourself. Tag my page with your local police department, local EMS, local fire. Everybody's on social media now. Every police department has a social media page. Tag them, share my page, send letters, let them know I exist. Let them know who I am, that I am a cop, that I that I come from a place of not, you guys are all ignorant and you and I come from a place where I understand their challenges and let them know I'm available to do this training. That's first. So if they can share what my training is, that helps, too. I've also on the other side of it for parents, I've developed a a course to walk you through systematically how to establish these relationships. I know it's intimidating. I know it's challenging. I know people just don't even don't even understand the basic rank structure of your local police department who recall who's a captain, who's a chief, who's a sergeant. I have a complete course. They'll take you five steps, five days to take you from start to finish to establish these, these relationships that I think is critical. You can find that on my website as well. My website is broken down a two two piece. You choose your experience as a first responder or as a parent caregiver. Right? And I'll take you to the appropriate way that you can help your family. Number three is understand that this is a valid request. You have, for some reason, this parent. We go to war with insurance companies, we go to war with doctor's offices, with IEPs, with our school system. We have developed a sense of advocacy for our kids that is like, feared in society. But for some reason, we stop at the level of our first responders who don't take that extra step of of making sure they understand our kids. And that's critical. So a lot of what I do is given arming parents with that, whether it's a pep talk or whether it's just information with the tools they need to make this happen to rethink is the way forward. My My novel is available on Amazon Desperate Pursuits. It's a sneaky way, I'll be honest with you as a sneaky way to do a lot of training, because what I've done in my novel in a fictional format is gone through all of these topics, and I think it's a fun read for a cop because they'll get the inside world that I'm exposing. All the while learning about our kids. So if you want to be real sneaky, send them a copy of my book. And it's a fun read to say it's a fun read. You know, just in general. But I do sneak in a lot of our story as parents, especially these parents too. That's another way to go.

Mary: And I think while you were talking, when we open up the show, when you were talking about your novel and you didn't feel qualified for a nonfiction book, it sounds like a nonfiction book may be on your agenda for the future. OK, Yeah. Before I let you go, Jerry, it's been a fascinating discussion. I'd like to end my shows the same way because part of my podcast goals are not to just help the kids, but help the parents and professionals who are listening be less stressed and lead happier lives. So with all your busyness in all of your roles, do you have some self-care tips or stress management techniques that you use every day or regularly that might help somebody else?

Jerry: I have become a big fan of meditation. I always I've made it a point of. Giving myself the first 45 minutes or an hour of my day, and I'd even adjusted my sleep to get it in, I'll go to bed earlier and make sure I wake up earlier to give myself one hour, one hour before my son wakes up and I've gone. I home school my son now. And when he wakes up, it's go time and it's all about him. Him, him, him, him. So I've made a point to understand myself well enough to know that I need a little bit of time for me. So I always give myself first hour of the day to either meditate, go through some things, check the Yankees scores on the computer, whatever you got to do for you. And if I get that out of the way first, by the time my son wakes up, I'm in a much better place to to focus on him and what he's going to need for me throughout the day. So if that's that be my recommendation coming from a person who struggles with all of that right and who struggles with the stress and anxiety of the day to day thing that this is, I found this my best tool to deal with it.

Mary: Awesome. So and Blue Bridge Training on Facebook

Jerry: And Bacon and Juice boxes. That's my personal page.

Mary: It's a good blog, and that's how I found you. Actually, initially on Bacon and Juice Boxes, so I'm sure we'll be friends and and advocates together in the future. So thank you for your time today, Jerry.

Jerry: It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for thinking of me. This has been great. Thank you.

Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at, where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism. And you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again, go to for all the details, I hope to see you there.