//It’s a fair cop
It’s a fair cop 2017-09-07T15:05:30+00:00

Project Description

By Julie Ellsmoor

The first time John and I made the acquaintance of our local police force was when John made a decision that he didn’t like seat belts and refused to keep his fastened. He was about 12 at the time.

We would start out on our journey all safely seat-belted up and after a few minutes he would unfasten it and bounce up and down giggling helplessly. He liked the clunk click sound the belt made when it clicked in place but he didn’t like to feel the belt restricting his movement. This is not uncommon in autistic children but it made driving anywhere very difficult and the journey to the shops five minutes away could take an hour.

I would stop the car, tell John he had to wear his seat belt, click it back in, get deafened by his squeals of laughter and then restart the car. A hundred yards later he would take it off again and we would repeat the whole thing over and over until eventually I would have a sense of humour failure and John’s frustration would boil over.

“Seat belt ON John, please. Mummy can’t drive if you don’t wear it,” I would say. Then I would fight to get it back over his big tummy while John wriggled and hooted. He loved the ‘seat belt off’ game.

During one particularly fraught car Journey, I decided that I couldn’t do this anymore. “Ok, ok, you don’t have to wear your seat belt, I give up John. I GIVE UP.” I put my head in my hands. “Unclick the belt John, but please just sit still.” I was beaten – and I didn’t care. So what if I got stopped by the police; if they locked me up it would at least be a break from this craziness.

Over the following weeks our car journeys were much more pleasant, we continued to play the seatbelt game with the only difference being that when John unclipped it we both shouted ‘hurray’.

It was during one of these games that I noticed I was being followed by a police car. It must have looked as if John was beating me up as he bounced around delightedly and slapped my head. Before long I was pulled over. I wound my window down. Catching my reflection in the mirror I realised I must look very odd.  My hair was all over the place from the head slapping and I was red in the face from being crushed by John as he attempted to get a good look at the ‘peez’ man.

The police officer looked at me closely and asked if I was ok. I assured him I was and that we had been playing the seatbelt game. John immediately obliged by fastening and unfastening his belt. John then slapped me on the head and squealed in laughter. I looked at the policeman and gave him my special smile. I explained that John was autistic and as such found it difficult to wear his seatbelt. I also asked if he could, please, put on his lights and siren, as it would make John’s day.

The policeman cupped his hands together and ‘nee naad’  so loudly and realistically that  John and I both jumped out of our skins then rewarded him with a round of applause.  He then went round to John’s side of the car so he could have a chat with him.  This ended with John wearing a police helmet and giggling with delight.

“Now then about the seatbelt,” he said, getting serious. “John should be wearing it at all times but in situations like yours we are flexible. Looks like you have enough to contend with, love. I will say one thing though, it’s not good getting your head slapped whilst you are driving, maybe come up with an alternative, eh?”

I gave the policeman an extra special smile as I drove off.

This article first appeared on Julie’s blog, Close Encounters of the Autistic Kind and is reproduced with kind permission.

The police officer looked at me closely and asked if I was ok. I assured him I was and that we had been playing the seatbelt game. John immediately obliged by fastening and unfastening his belt. John then slapped me on the head and squealed in laughter. I looked at the policeman and gave him my special smile. I explained that John was autistic and as such found it difficult to wear his seatbelt. I also asked if he could, please, put on his lights and siren, as it would make John’s day.