Autistic Boy Struck By Police for Standing

Filed Under (Activism, Discrimination) by Estee on 25-04-2009


April, 25, 2009, Chicago Tribune:

Days after Chicago police promoted their expanded training for dealing with people with autism, a teen with the disorder was allegedly struck by an officer who ignored the family’s pleas that he was a “special boy.”

While Chicago police refused to discuss the incident, relatives of Oscar Guzman detailed the alleged assault and said it was an example of why more officers need to be trained in handling people with special needs.

Guzman, 16, was standing on the sidewalk Wednesday night, taking a break from working in his family’s fast-food restaurant in the Pilsen neighborhood. He was watching cars go by when a police cruiser pulled up and two officers began asking him questions, his family says.

Guzman didn’t understand the questions, said his sister Nubia, 25, and looked down, away and eventually began walking away. Diagnosed with moderate autism at age 4, he doesn’t like confrontation, his sister said.


This story comes on the heels of the other incident in Newfoundland several days ago, where an autistic boy was arrested for walking. Due to the difference in his gait, the officers thought he was drunk. In both instances (see previous post) officers deny the allegations, excusing as “an honest mistake,” or “not commenting until further investigation.” If these statements don’t infuriate parents and autistic people, I don’t know what will. Seems to me that our society values deceipt (covered up as “honest mistakes” and “further investigations), more than honesty and goodwill.

In this Chicago incident, the report states that Easter Seals gave them a training list. Sounds like paper to me. If we don’t get autistic people in there training our police, and some parent allies as well, I’m not sure a document will do the trick.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.