Why I Called 911 On My Autistic Son, And I’d Do It Again

I’d never seen my son act quite so violently in the car before.

It was not a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The skies were cloudy and dark. My son got into my car with a slip of paper, saying he had a one-day suspension for violent behavior. And worse, he seemed almost proud of it. 

"I didn't take my meds this morning," he said with a grin. He laid out a stream of curse words in exact imitation of the YouTube videos he'd watched on tornadoes. I managed to get him to the car to pick up his younger brother. Little did I know, a few minutes later, I'd be calling 911.

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The Horrible Ride That Resulted In My Call To 911

I'd never seen my son act quite so violently in the car before. As I tried to drive, he threw things at me, laughing. He threw punches, emptied out my glove compartment to find more things to throw, and stripped off all of his clothes. I made it about 15 minutes down the road, fully distracted, before pulling over. I could see no way to calm him down and get home safely and we still had about 30 minutes left to go. He was in total meltdown mode.

I called my husband, desperate for some advice on how to handle the situation. He continued cursing, throwing punches, and then unbuckling me and my other son. He went after his brother in full nudity. I guarded and as I watched his spiral out of control, I pondered calling 911. My husband told me to do what I was going to do and then let him know later. I felt alone and afraid to drive.

Erasmus Wolff / Shutterstock

Finally, I decided it was time to get some help. I couldn't remember the crisis number for RHA, and so I did what I never thought I'd do. I called 911. I told them where I was and then said, "Look, I know this totally sounds like it's not a big deal, but it is. I can't drive home because my son is throwing things at me and trying to hit me." They were totally friendly and told me someone would be out there to help soon. I waited.

Officer Friendly arrived in a few minutes that seemed like forever.

Two sheriff's vehicles pulled up and one officer came to my car. He made an immediate connection with my son and used redirection to get him dressed again. My son asked if he was being arrested and of course he wasn't, but the officer offered him a look at the police car. He had him totally diffused. I was asked if I wanted to take him to the hospital and have him committed, but since he was just without his medication, I told him this was temporary and we'd give him his meds when we got home. I'd never seen him so violent, even without medication, but felt that the storms along with the lack of medication was the root of the problem. Instead, he rode home with one of the sheriffs so that I could ride safely.

Do I regret calling 911?

Police officers are villainized a lot lately, but they were a positive force in my life that day. They helped me and helped calm down my son. They even helped me get home safely and it wasn't a short ride. If I absolutely had to, I would do it again. I wish I hadn't had to do it but it turned out well and showed me that the officers in our area are very well trained to deal with autistic children. Thank goodness for that!

Cover image via denk creative / Shutterstock

This story originally appeared on Teresa Cooper's blog, Embracing the Spectrum. Cooper is a 30-something wife, mom and teacher from Havelock, North Carolina. While she also holds a Master of Science in Education from Walden University, she has a BA in Psychology with a minor in Creative from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Having struggled with anxiety and depression most of her life and later having birthed a child with autism, she is passionate about spreading awareness and acceptance of mental illness and autism and has been writing for Embracing the Spectrum since 2011. She also writes for The Mighty, The Huffington Post, and The Educator's Room. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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