A legacy for Adam: N.S. dad works with Halifax police to implement better autism awareness


Halifax Regional Police have up to date their awareness coaching for officers working with individuals with autism spectrum dysfunction — thanks to the devotion of a father who desires to maintain his son’s legacy alive.

Greg Richardson mentioned he wished to make a distinction after his 14-year-old son was concerned in a verbal altercation with police. The altercation got here simply months earlier than he died of a drug overdose final July.

Since the altercation, Richardson has been working with Autism Nova Scotia and Halifax police to replace their coaching to better serve individuals with autism.

He mentioned the coaching was formally applied for all HRP officers final month, simply in time for what would have been Adam’s sixteenth birthday.

“I am unable to even say I used to be completely happy about it, given the circumstances, however I used to be slightly bit completely happy that that is one thing that is on the market as a legacy for Adam,” Richardson advised CBC Radio’s Mainstreet final month.

“Officers may be skilled in how to deal with individuals on the spectrum and that is vital.”

Adam’s identify is seen spray painted on the Halifax Skate Park. He was usually there with his scooter. (Submitted by Greg Richardson)

Richardson mentioned Adam was an energetic, sensible and “tremendous humorous” child, who usually struggled to keep targeted at school and will lash out if agitated.

In 2018, the household spoke with CBC News after Adam was expelled from a non-public college for youngsters with studying disabilities in Wolfville, N.S., after hitting one other pupil.

At the time, the varsity mentioned it was “about behaviour and the protection of different college students.” 

Richardson mentioned he enrolled his son in different colleges and applications within the Annapolis Valley and Halifax, however Adam continued to battle.

He mentioned within the spring of 2021, in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Adam’s psychological well being began to decline and he began self-medicating with medicine. He additionally began hanging out with older youngsters who had been stealing and probably dealing medicine, which meant extra run-ins with police.

Verbal altercation with HRP officer

Richardson mentioned one incident occurred after Adam was out too late whereas on home arrest. He mentioned Adam ended up moving into an altercation with an officer who had been tasked with taking him house.

He mentioned the officer had pinned Adam down and smashed his telephone, nevertheless it bought greater than bodily.

“I’m certain … Adam is not any angel on this state of affairs, however then he was put behind the automobile and the officer was kind of verbally taunting him and calling him names and kind of dressing him down, and Adam was fairly upset about that and he advised me about it after, so I filed a grievance with the police.”

After the grievance was despatched, Richardson mentioned HRP Det. James Luther, who mediates some of these conditions, arrange a gathering to enable him to meet with the officer. 

But by the point the assembly occurred, Richardson mentioned Adam had died. 

“I proceeded with the assembly as a result of I wished the officer to perceive the impact he could have had on Adam, and I did not need that to occur to one other child,” he mentioned.

He mentioned regardless of the circumstances, the dialog went nicely.

“I believe with that individual officer, I believe on that day, I moved the needle for him and in order that had that means for me. That was one thing I used to be doing that may very well be a legacy for Adam.”

A teenage boy his seen doing a trick on his scooter at a skatepark while the sun is shining.
Greg Richardson mentioned that is the final photograph Adam uploaded to his private Instagram account. (Submitted by Greg Richardson/Instagram)

As a results of the assembly, Richardson mentioned he linked Luther with Autism Nova Scotia in an effort to replace HRP’s autism awareness coaching for officers.

Jill Cormier, the inclusion and household assist co-ordinator for Autism Nova Scotia, mentioned she helped evaluation the coaching and supplied suggestions.

“The reception was unbelievable, truly,” Cormier advised Mainstreet Monday, including that the group labored with Luther and Richardson to streamline the coaching for the entire pressure.

“Our hope is that the Halifax Regional Police pressure have a better data now and transferring ahead with all of the coaching that they are going to have, hopefully, have the option to present better methods than simply basic methods for autistic people.”

Halifax police did not present an interview, however in a press release, Const. John MacLeod mentioned they’re “at all times trying for alternatives to better perceive the distinctive perspective of members of our neighborhood and when this coaching was introduced to our consideration we felt that it was a very good alternative to do exactly that.”

He additionally confirmed that each one HRP officers have been enrolled within the on-line coaching course.

“[It] outlines a number of the indicators that first responders can acknowledge as indicative to a person with autism, in addition to some methods and suggestions which will assist first responders adapt or modify their method to better assist the person with autism in an emergency state of affairs,” he mentioned.

Richardson mentioned the coaching is an internet course that teaches officers how to acknowledge when somebody has autism and the way to work with them throughout tough conditions.

He mentioned individuals on the spectrum could keep away from eye contact or seem agitated or socially awkward. They may additionally exhibit repetitive bodily behaviour, brought on by heightened stimulation which may be triggered by flashing lights or sirens. 

He mentioned he understands officers could interpret these indicators as somebody “who’s possibly bought one thing to disguise” or the state of affairs wants to be dealt with in a bodily method.

“If [officers] can perceive that generally it is simply somebody on the spectrum who’s agitated by the state of affairs, they will work to de-escalate it slightly than escalate it,” he mentioned.

“And I do not need to make a police officer’s job tougher. The complete level of that is to attempt to make it simpler and, hopefully, have better outcomes for everybody.”


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