The brutal murder of George Floyd has spurred a long overdue, worldwide discourse about racial inequality and how police officers interact with the communities they are hired to serve. Since our inception, and every day since, we at Floreo have been committed to driving productive change by helping build the skills that children with autism will need to be safe in this world and in a hopefully future safer world.
For Floreo, our journey started four years ago within a few months of our inception. Charles Kinsey, an African-American behavioral therapist was shot by the police while attempting to aid his patient, an adult with autism. The police officer testified that he believed Mr. Kinsey’s patient was armed and shot to kill his patient, missing and striking Mr. Kinsey. The adult had a toy in his hand.
The shooting highlighted the danger and fear that many parents with a child with autism feel and inspired us at Floreo to develop our police intervention lessons. These lessons have since become the basis of ground breaking research with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia generously supported by NIH. And the quality of the lessons and the realism of police procedures would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Montgomery County (MD) Police Department during our initial development and the Philadelphia Police Department during the current randomized controlled trial.
The danger felt by communities of color is real. I will never forget how one urban school therapist put it, “I have a child who is 12, has the social skills of a 6 year old, and looks 18 to the police.” Protecting that 12-year-old and every other black child with tools to safely navigate a police encounter has driven us in our research and development of Floreo.
Developing the lessons has not been without controversy. For activists, training individuals to cooperate with the police can feel like blaming them for potential violence rather than holding police accountable. We have also seen feedback from law enforcement feeling like the lessons paint the police as aggressors and not friendly and helpful at all times. But we do not discourage such conversations but rather embrace them because only through dialogue can we ensure enduring change.
Because at Floreo today and every day, Black Lives Matter and Black Autism Lives Matter. Thanks,
Vijay Ravindran, Founder/CEO, Floreo