When her 17-year-old autistic son was having a violent meltdown, a Texas mom’s last resort was to call the police. After six officers arrived on the scene, the mom snapped a discreet picture of how they handled her son’s tantrum.
As severely autistic children grow, the gap between their mental development and their biological growth drastically widens. For many parents, like Sherry Hillard, this means caring for an impulsive teen with the mind of a child and the strength of an adult.
For Hillard, the struggle of raising a son with high-spectrum autism sometimes includes fixations that lead to frustrations. So, when 17-year-old John couldn’t find the specific outfit he wanted to wear, what would be a minor inconvenience for others turned into a full-blown meltdown for the special needs teen.
Hillard says that the chaos erupted over a shirt. The teen had hoped to find a sweater like his favorite children’s television character. After his mother was unable to find anything remotely close to the design of the shirt, John couldn’t cope with the bad news.
“The meltdown today was because John wants to dress like Joe on Blues Clues but I can’t find that same shirt anywhere,” she wrote on Facebook.
Unfortunately, the meltdown turned into rage, and Sherry Hillard was unable to calm John down. She knew she would have to call the police, but she had no idea what they would do with her son.
The Arp Police Department dispatched several officers to Hillard’s home. However, when Smith County Constable Josh Joplin heard what the call was about, he immediately set out to provide extra assistance, The Morning Telegraph reports.
“I have an older brother who is mentally handicapped and it takes a lot of patience and humility to calm him down,” Joplin said. “Officer Moon, Officer Reynolds, and I went to the house and we tried to calm John down by talking to him and counting to 100. It worked a little, but John was still having issues because he wasn’t able to dress like Joe from the show Blue’s Clues.”
When the officers failed to keep John calm, they came up with a plan. They bought a blue shirt and fabric markers in an attempt to create the design John wanted. Astounded by their effort and compassion, Hillard snapped a photo of the officers gathered around a patrol SUV, painting the shirt for her son.
“In the last week I’ve had 6 police officers in my home because my sons meltdowns turned to rage. With so much negativity shown towards law enforcement lately, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show my appreciation for the empathy these officers had for my son,” she wrote. “After calming him down, the officers went and bought a blue shirt and with Jenn’s fabric markers they attempted to create the shirt John wants. That’s what this pic is, 3 officers going above and beyond to help a severely autistic teenage boy! Sadly, it didn’t work, but the fact that they were willing to do this for my son made them hero’s in my eyes.”
Although the result didn’t quite turn out as planned, John did eventually calm down. Upon hearing about his struggle, a local screen printing shop stepped up to create a shirt that met the teen’s standard.
“A huge thank you to Cutting Edge Designs,” she wrote in an update post. “He’s finally got his shirt!”
Hillard is forever grateful to the kind police officers who went above and beyond their duties to help her son.
“They showed up not knowing much about autism but they listened and learned while they kept us all safe. They also asked ALOT of questions so they wouldn’t do the wrong thing,” she wrote.
Caring for a child with autism poses an entirely new set of challenges for parents as their teen grows. Thanks to the kindness and patience of these officers, Hillard knows that they will treat her son with the same care as they would for their own family members.
With all the mainstream media’s coverage often disparaging law enforcement as a whole, it’s important that the selfless acts that often get overlooked are shared as well.