Advice on the best way to crush my autistic child's dreams.

(Sigh) This is a tough post for me.

The other day, my son and I were having dinner with my mom. My mom is asking my son how’s school going, blah, blah, blah… My son eventually lets us know that when he graduates from HS he wants to go to college to study law enforcement. His end goal to be a law enforcement officer.

I know for a fact that this isn’t just some whim either. He’s been fascinated with all things Cops since he was 5yo (He just turned 16). He used to watch Cops (the TV show) religiously. Not only that, but he currently belongs to the Explorers program which is basically our local police department’s version of The Boy Scouts.
The thing is, I don’t think he has the academic skill to get a degree.* And even if he did, he’s just not an alpha. I’ve seen him in confrontations. He doesn’t handle it well and becomes very withdrawn or submissive to the one doing the confronting.

This conversation happened nearly a week ago and it’s been weighing on me like a tonne of bricks. I have no idea how to confront him about this.

Any ideas or advice appreciated.

*Not unless there are Associates degrees that have programs for medium level autistic folks.

There are careers ancillary to law enforcement, what about exploring those?

I wouldn’t worry about it. If life wants to smack him down it will, no need to make a head start on it. And you never know.

I have a friend who is an ex-cop. When I first found out I couldn’t believe it. I would have been certain at the time that he was policing he would have been a hippie because he is that kind of guy. I remember his wife telling me that he would invite around friends from the old days. Invariably they turned out to be criminals not fellow police officers.

At one time, years after I met him, he was working, very successfully, as a private investigator. Once I knew that he had been a cop I could see it in his mannerisms, whenever we were out anywhere he seemed to know what everyone around us was doing. And he would notice strange things. Once he became suspicious of someone sitting in a car near my home because he was sitting in the passenger seat. When I asked why he said that sitting in the passenger seat makes you less conspicuous, as though you are waiting for the driver who has just gone to quickly see someone. So people pay you less attention. Same with homeless guys - no-one even wants to look at them, he would reflexively check them out very closely.

But as I say he was quite the hippie without any dogmatic feelings of right and wrong. A very peaceful low-key guy.

ETA. Sorry, I should have mentioned that when I met him he had long since ceased being a cop because he hated the culture within the police service.

What a great answer! A dispatcher for example. Or a guard.

I’d recommend that the OP not crushing the dream. If you son doesn’t have the academic and other skills for law enforcement, this will come out in the training. and who knows - he may surprise you!

I was wondering about whether he might have the temperment to be a 9-1-1 operator. As far as police academy training is concerned, regardless of the academic potential, is he in good enough physical condition to withstand the rigorous training regimen?

Also, many community colleges have 2-year Criminal Justice programs that lead to an Associates Degree, and possibly some Certificate programs as well. One of those might be a good option.

Why not just let him fail, instead of failing for him?

I wonder if he’d benefit at this point from a concrete plan. Is there someone in law enforcement that can talk with your son about the exact entrance requirements for their department?

I can see the desire to prevent wasting the time and money on an unobtainable goal. College isn’t cheap and you only get so many years in the world. “Well, you put three years into it and it didn’t work out like we figured it wouldn’t… let me reach into the magic money bag so we can start over with something else.” So, yeah, I can appreciate the motivation.

But, like some of the other suggestions here, I think it’d be best to try and support him through this by also looking into side routes that could get him into the law enforcement field without necessarily becoming a street cop should Plan A not work out.

You don’t know who your son will be in 2 years, he could surprise you. I’m sure part of officer training is how to deal with confrontation, they will teach him the skills he needs to handle it. His academic skills may improve as well.
My son is dyslexic and he struggled all through school, until he hit his sophomore year. Then he took off academically, was put into some AP classes and even earned college credits while in HS.

A lot could change between now and when he graduates from HS, motivation and interest can overcome a lot of obstacles.

It isn’t like the TV shows, but there really are Crime Scene Investigators. Some autistic sorts are very meticulous and detail oriented which might be an asset.

Also, college and High School IME were totally different learning environments. I barely graduated HS at all, yet took my college degree with honors, and was even allowed to teach a lab course as an undergrad.

Yes and yes.

Don’t “crush his dreams.” And why on earth you would even phrase it that way is beyond me.

Just walk with him along each step and see how things play out. MOST of us don’t achieve at the level of our original dreams, so if he falls short or can’t do what he originally set out to do, he’ll just be another human being like everyone else.

Because his dreams being crushed is exactly what it feels like and as his father I feel partly responsible for that, or at least, that I’m helpless to prevent it.
If you think I’m being blase about this, you would be incorrect.
Thanks for the input guys. I wont be able to respond t his thread for a while but keep the comments coming, I appreciate the input.

I think it was Spike Lee who said “More dreams are crushed by parents than any other reason.”

Don’t crush your son’s dream. Let him go out into the world and see what happens. He may surprise you, but he won’t live a lifetime of “What if?”

I don’t know anything about the Explorers programme - does it put your son in contact with actual cops? If it does, I’d do everything possible to have a chat with whichever officer knows your son best. That cop is the best person to tell you whether your son could conceivably make a policeman, and if not, which related field (dispatcher, scene-of-crime officer, whatever) might work for him. He might even be able to get your son a chance to see that job in action, and put him in touch with someone who can talk to him about the best way to prepare for that career.

If your son doesn’t have any acquaintance with actual cops through the programme, I’d still try to find one you can talk to.

And for your own sake as much as his, don’t assume that if he can’t have his first career choice it’s necessarily because he’s autistic. Plenty of non-autistic kids want to be footballers or singers or doctors, and have to come to terms with the fact that, no matter how hard they work, they just don’t have the talent or the brains or the temperament for it. So they have to develop a more realistic view of themselves and find something that’s a better match for them.

Look into career advice specifically for autistic people. then apply that knowledge to finding an (auxillary) career in law enforcement. Maybe there are career advisors specifically for autistic people? Foud thru patient awareness groups?

Also, watch the Scandinavian series The Bridge. One of the two lead characters is an female detecive with Aspergers.

Also, there’s a book for everything.

An LE undergrad is a waste of money.

Many law enforcement agencies don’t require a degree…of those that do, most couldn’t care less whether it was a LE degree.

Maybe he’d be happy working as a dispatcher, as a couple others have pointed out. He’d still be in a law enforcement enviornment, and probably only needs to be 18 to start work. Then he can get an idea of the actual experience of working in law enforcement.

A fast-paced dispatch center feels (to me) very much like playing a video game. And a slow-paced one is a great place to get paid to do homework.

How open are you with him on his autism? Is he in therapy? Are you working with guidance counselors?

What do you think he’ll be able to do in the future?

Can you get input from a professional?

As others have suggested, trying to get realistic information seems like a good idea.

If he’s at all geeky about maps and information, he might want to learn GIS. If law enforcement is anything like environmental protection, they need people who can work with spatial datasets to create informative graphics. This type of work appeals to me because it is so visual, and I’m a visual (as opposed to verbal) type of person.

When I was 16, I just knew I was going to be a veterinarian. Then when I was 17, I realized I didn’t have the temperment to handle it. Then I went through several years of not knowing what I wanted to do. Perhaps letting your son know that it’s alright not to have his mind made up is all he really needs to let go of his “dream”.

Are you really asking whether to crush his dreams, or whether to support them even though they’re unrealistic?

The former would be mean. The latter is different. My autistic daughter has entertained ideas of becoming a child psychologist, probably partly because she’s seen so many. She can’t do that. She in no way has the social skills or organizational skills necessary for it. It is absolutely impossible.

Tbf, every single one of her psychologists has seemed a trifle odd (seriously, her latest counsellor is clearly nutty as a fruitcake), so she might have picked up on it as an area where she could fit in. But she’s still a bit odder than them.

However, there are other jobs she could possibly do, so I’m gently guiding her towards them while allowing her to apply to study sociology at a level (uk; kids choose 3 or 4 subjects at age 16). She’ll discover the truth in time and the knowledge she gets from this subject won’t be to her detriment.

Your son is still young enough that you can indulge his hobby.