Sunday, December 15, 2019

#SaveArnaldo : How Much Is Lifelong CPTSD Worth?

Image of Arnaldo Rios Soto, a nonspeaking
Latinx autistic young man in a gray hoodie
with crew-cut brown hair and a clean-shaven face
smiling broadly for the camera. Credit
Matthew Dietz, Esq.
If your child's school staff,  then his residential care home staff,  harm your autistic child and one terrible day, you get a call that the behavioral aide your child finally connects with has been shot and your grown child, having survived so much, was shot at while sitting in the street holding his toy truck, handcuffed, interrogated, institutionalized, and now has permanent complex PTSD caused by the mishandling of a catastrophic encounter with law enforcement, can you think of a price tag that with make it all go away?

That final traumatic event, the moment Arnaldo Ríos Soto screams out in his frequent nightmares in the single word utterance "POLICE", cannot be fixed or undone. Any parent of an autistic young adult would hold those responsible to account for the lifelong care he needs. The state of Florida is accountable for Arnaldo's lifelong, 24/7 care and support. This should not even be in question.

So why then was the cost for his lifelong care cut? Lifelong damage was done. Irreparable damage. The kind of trauma Arnaldo experienced cannot be undone. Put simply it is the obligation of those who caused this trauma to care for him. 

Arnaldo was evicted from his home because the state cut the funding needed for his care in half. He was evicted after a contract was signed saying his care facility would continue his care despite the funding shortfall. His former care home should lose their license.

I have been steadily updating on Arnaldo's situation because but for the grace of God Arnaldo could be my son.

I wrote an essay on the eve of Arnaldo's eviction that was published in Poor Magazine, but still, no one seemed to give a damn. So I'm reposting it here. Let's hope someone out there listens this time.

Arnaldo Rios Soto, Autistic, nonspeaking, and Latinx, was evicted from his current group home.  

His ongoing crisis brought back a personal memory. 

When I was in my teens, I worked summers as part of the Youth Conservation Corps. One of our projects was assisting efforts to reclaim the Palso strip mine. A group of us were standing with our supervising forest ranger on the top of a mountain of slag looking at miles of blasted fields and ponds filled with acid runoff when suddenly the rubble beneath us shifted and three of us tumbled downward with the landslide. The other two managed to stop and scurry back up. But each time I moved, the mountain seemed to respond by raining more debris around and over me. It was an avalanche. I was sure I was going to die that day.

If we were to create a timeline of each pivotal event in Arnaldo Rios Soto’s life, I believe those traumatic moments would morph into a rubble mountain of suffering and trauma. Arnaldo has now seen the ground shift beneath him one too many times. An avalanche is happening, and Arnaldo, like me the day I hung suspended on a slag mountain, is scraped, bruised, too young to die. The detritus of a failed disability care system falling like rubble all around him, he has now been evicted from another group home on the excuse that money was cut from his care budget.

Arnaldo’s life is measured by how much profit he makes for those who offer services to house and care for him. His family’s lives have been punctuated by seeking the land of autism care Oz, that place where Arnaldo won’t be beaten, chemically lobotomized, where someone, anyone, can truly see him as a human being and not a collection of behavioral reports, untreated complex PTSD and medications. They are tired, burnt out with disappointment in that shattered dream of an American mainland utopian disability care system they sacrificed and journeyed from Puerto Rico for in vain.

What will happen to Arnaldo now?

What happens to Arnaldo now is up to all of us. We are his family now. He is in our care. So we need to understand how and why Arnaldo matters. Arnaldo’s situation is greater than his news headlines. His situation right now is bigger than my personal emotional reaction, informed by the fact that he once looked so much like our son that both my husband and I cried out in shock when we saw that video of him sitting in the middle of the street, holding his toy truck, police shouting and Charles Kinsey shot and bleeding beside him.

 It is greater now than Arnaldo not understanding that he was about to tumble down that cruel mountain of police interrogation for the crime of sitting in the street holding a toy truck while disabled and brown. Arnaldo is now the symbol of what it means to be a nonspeaking autistic male of color at the mercy of a system that views the Black and Brown disabled body as a threat. This system, founded on eugenic attitudes, views those with complex support needs as burdens or cash cows. When the profit margin is not enough the cash cow is sent to the slaughterhouse. For someone like Arnaldo, who was harmed by agents of the state, leaving him without shelter and the complex support he needs is tantamount to destroying his psyche entirely. And returning him to a hellhole institutional setting like Carlton Arms is unthinkable and unacceptable.

What that means is that what happens to Arnaldo now has the potential to impact how future cases like his are handled across our country. If we can act together and change his destiny it will demonstrate that our community has the power to transform the destinies of others brought low by this system. It means that the lifetime efforts of hundreds of disability justice activists have managed to change something. We need this hope because we multiply marginalized people have become the targets of hate groups instigated by those who feel that the current administration has given them a free license to hunt those who are oppressed and vulnerable. So what I am doing right now, typing, wheezing with asthma, pushing past joints that ache to write this is reaching out to say this is the time when all of us, ALL OF US can help Arnaldo. #SaveArnaldo can trend on every social media platform enough to make those who made the decision to cut funding for Arnaldo’s care rethink their decision. Organizations can support the AutisticSelf Advocacy Networks leadership and issue statements in support of the Sotos family. Legislative advocates can reach out to their lawmakers. This takes a few moments, a click, a retweet. But multiplied exponentially, collective cross-disability community action could be an avalanche that forces a positive resolution to Arnaldo’s crisis.

As I was sliding down a mountain of slag towards my death, two other people volunteered to lay flat, one grabbing the ankles of the other, and acted as a human rope. Five others held on to the arms of the person laying flat on the top of that mountain for dear life. Then they all heaved up and backward.

Together, they saved my life.

I am asking you all to make a human and virtual chain. Get him off that sliding bureaucratic slag mountain and back into a place where his family can see him every day and he can be safe and cared for. #SaveArnaldo.


Poor Magazine Lays out My position on catastrophic encounters with Law Enforcement:

Read and hear more about Arnaldo:
Miami Herald coverage of Arnaldo's eviction CN: for Ableism

Aftereffect: Against the Erasure of Arnaldo Rios Soto

Aftereffect: A SWAT team, an autistic man, an American tragedy.

Podcast: Aftereffect — an indictment of America’s disability care

On catastrophic encounters between disabled youth and men of color with law enforcement specific to Arnaldo’s case:

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