Recently a tragic situation occurred in Lancaster City, PA where a young man with Autism was shot and killed by law enforcement. This was after his family called to get support for a crisis they were encountering in the home. As a parent with a child with Autism, this breaks my heart in so many ways. All the “what-ifs” and “if-onlys” ran through my mind.

* The man pictured above is not the man mentioned above from the incident in Lancaster City*

Children and adults with Autism that have a treatment plan often have a Safety Plan and/or a De-escalation protocol in place to follow. If not, they should. One of the things that Dei’s Care stresses is that treatment planning is not all about behavior modification but heart transformation as well. And this heart transformation is not just for the child/adult with the diagnosis but even the caregivers and community members that interact with them. Therefore, when developing a safety plan, we believe that it must include how God sees the person and how He would protect and respond to their behavior.

A Biblical Response

I’m reminded of a story in the bible (Mark 5:1-20 & Luke 8:26-39) where there was a demon-possessed man that cried out day and night in need of mental, emotional and physical help. No one was able to contain him, not even the chains that he was locked in could provide restraint. But when the man saw Jesus, the bible says he IMMEDIATELY fell before the Lord and asked “what are you to do with me Jesus, Son of the Most High God”? And Jesus was the only one capable of both setting the man free from his misery and calming him down.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying: I am not calling children with autism demon possessed. They are however bound by mental distress that at times cannot be contained by simple human effort (simple behavior modification through the use of education, skill and knowledge). It takes the strength of the Lord to set them free and “He who sets them free is free indeed”-John 8:36

So, what does involving Jesus in the a child’s safety plan look like practically? Below are a list of recommendations I refer to as being least to most restrictive strategies a person can use in safety protocols. They are not in order of importance seeing as they are all vital!

  1. Pray over your child, with your child and for your child AT ALL TIMES (pray without ceasing).
  2. Play calming worship music. Get them familiar with the sweet melodies of God’s Word.
  3. Familiarize yourself with his/her likes, dislikes, sensory needs, and triggers.
  4. Make his/her setting calming by including those likes, sensory items and even keep yourself calm when in their setting
  5. Make neighbors aware of his likes and dislikes, of any sensory needs, any triggers and a brief de-escalation plan.
  6. Post Autism Awareness signs on your doors and windows.
  7. Attend de-escalation and non-violent crisis prevention trainings.
  8. Identify a counselor, church leader, social worker and/or therapist that you can have on call.
  9. Contact Crisis Management if behavior is not able to be managed AND inform the child/adult that you have called (whether or not they accept it or functionally understand it).
  10. Inform all caregivers, neighbors and crisis management that law enforcement should not approach the child/adult as a threat but to use non-life-threatening means to contain them.

Law enforcement should be called as a last resort. They should also be informed that the person should be handled with therapeutic care and not as a menace to society.

These strategies provide the diagnosed person, the caregivers, the community and law enforcement the awareness that is needed to respond with a soft heart instead of a hard weapon.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms-Ephesians 6:14

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.-2nd Corinthians 10:4

If you are in need of help developing a safety plan for your loved one who has autism or a behavioral health need, please contact us to schedule a free consultation.