The arrest of autistic people leads to calls to assess SOPs

PETALING JAYA: The 22-year-old man with autism, who was arrested for allegedly bothering a woman, is not aware that he is the subject of discussions about dealing with people with disabilities, his mother said.

Although Hasnah Abdul Rahman was touched by the overwhelming support of the public, he said that her son was not aware that he had started a discussion about whether the authorities were adequately trained to handle cases where people like him were involved.

On September 11, Ahmad Ziqri Morshidi was arrested for having touched the breast of a woman.

He was then taken to court to be held in pre-trial detention the following day, but the application was rejected.

He was then released on the bail of the police.

The incident inspired a petition and called on the authorities to revise standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Launched by Persatuan Child Sabah, the petition launched on Monday had received more than 17,000 signatures at the time of the press.

The petition not only calls for Ahmad Ziqri to be treated fairly, but for the authorities to revise the standard working rules in their dealings with people with disabilities.

"Ahmad Ziqri has the mental age of a much younger person and was unable to process much of what happened," said the petition, which was addressed to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and the Inspector General of Police .

It added that although public awareness of autism had increased, very little was seen in terms of action in the community, which led to a misunderstanding of such behavior.

It urged the authorities to work with psychiatrists, psychologists and parents of children with disabilities to implement protocols.

He also begged members of the family or certain persons to accompany persons with disabilities to enable them to navigate through the system and support the individual.

It suggested that restrictions such as handcuffs are only used as a last resort in people with disabilities, because stress and anxiety can manifest themselves in the form of self-injury, seizures and extreme behavioral problems.

Hasnah said she had met with Welfare officials who informed her that the current SOPs did not require them to be present at the police station for adults with disabilities.

"The police treat them as adults, but it is not the same," she said, describing her son as a "child in someone's" body.

Hasnah also urged the public not to assess the parties involved.

"Some people have made comments about bad parenting, and it's easy to say that if you do not live with them 24/7," she said.

"I hope that a solution is in sight to help children and young adults who are autistic or have special needs," she added.

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