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Autistic Teen’s Police Assault Conviction Worries Parents of Teens with the Disorder

Posted Mar 18, 2011 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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As autism rates continue to soar, parents warn of the likelihood of increasing clashes between police and teens with the disorder who become aggressive when they become frustrated or angry.

Autism advocates cite a recent case as an example, according to the Washington Post’s Post Local blog. Earlier this month, Virginia teen Reginald “Nelli” Latson was found guilty of assaulting a police officer who questioned him as he sat outside a library waiting for it to open. The officer said he tried to arrest Latson after the youth refused to provide his name, leading to a scuffle that left the policeman with a shattered ankle and a one-inch gash to his head.

Defense lawyers said Latson had Asperger’s syndrome, intermittent explosive disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and he could not control himself. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 19.

Post Local spoke with Teresa Champion, a woman who attended the trial and cried when she heard the verdict. Champion said her own autistic son might have behaved the same way as Latson. “This is what we live with,” Champion told the newspaper. “When they go over the edge, there is no pulling back.”

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