For any Black parent, the talk is a difficult moment. For those of us with children with autism, it is doubly so. I know many Black American males — doctors, lawyers, teachers — who have harrowing stories of encounters with police. If these prominent professional men struggled in their encounters with police, it terrified me to think about what could happen if my son were ever stopped and questioned. Although my son, Marty, who is on the autism spectrum, is intelligent and high functioning in some areas, he, like most people with autism, processes information differently.

I constantly worry about what would happen if he encounters the police and failed to fully understand a verbal command given to him. What if he became fidgety or mistakenly reached for his wallet? A million nightmarish scenarios run through my mind. I have had to rethink whether the talk would even work with my son.

I know that I am not alone when it comes to worrying that a loved one with autism, or a developmental disability, or mental health challenges will one day encounter the wrong cop — one who won’t recognize that special needs people often require patience.

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Photo of Areva Martin with her son.