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

I don’t know than this is any different than a kid wanting to be a beauty queen, or air hostess, or a model, or an actor.

What do those those parents say to their children about how few succeed at certain jobs? How it’s great to have big goals, but they need to be accompanied by the awareness that a lot of people pursuing their dreams come up against immovable obstacles.

Too short? Can’t be an air hostess! Flat feet? Can’t be a soldier! Vision issues? Can’t be a pilot! Not good enough for the NHL, NBA, NFL ! Most actors don’t become stars!

These are realities for everybody not just people on the autism spectrum. I’d keep driving these points home, till it started to get through.

Then tell him the solution is to have an alternate path selected in case choice A doesn’t work out! Help him come up with a few, like those suggested in this thread.

Don’t crush his dreams now. There is no need. Instead focus on dealing with the disappointment of not having things work out the way we want.

It wouldn’t hurt to share your own experiences with things you really, really wanted, but, in the end, could not get. How you had to accept it, it was very difficult, you moved on and found happiness in something else, etc.

Good Luck!

Well, ignoring some of the spectacularly clueless suggestions in this thread would be a good start, and I’m sure the OP knows which one qualify.

If your son is fairly high-functioning, as it sounds he is, I agree that you may be concerned a little too far in advance about things that will resolve themselves. Don’t close doors for him. But…

It is a parent’s job to steer a child’s choices to some greater or lesser degree, and a child with high-function autism needs greater steering in some ways but not all. I would say your job is to steer him gently away from choices you know lead to closed doors; his medical history alone makes it very, very unlikely he’d ever make it to a uniform and badge as a cop.

But the best course might be to steer him to collateral careers at whatever levels you think he has the slightest chance of succeeding in. He might make a hell of a pathologist, for example. Support his ideas and help him carry out his efforts until he reaches each closed door and understands why - it need not be a crushing experience.

He’ll find an open door. I’ve known many who did, in the most surprising ways. Your appropriate help will be essential.

Have you asked him why he wants to be a cop? Is it the public service, or the weapons, or the mystery of solving crimes, or the cool car, or what? Fascination at five years old usually matures into a specific interest by the time you’re in high school. Find put what specifics excite him about being a cop, and work from there to discuss his career goals.

I’d recommend this for any parent. “Cop” is a job that covers lots of different areas, and if you can drill down to see why you want to be a cop, you may find something even more exciting - more of the rewarding aspect, and less of the mundane crap. This is true of any job, BTW.

OP, are you aware that almost no law enforcement careers actually require a four year degree. So while your concern re: his ability to complete a four-year degree may be well founded, this is by no means an obstacle to becoming a officer. The NYPD requires EITHER 60 college credits (no requirement to attain a degree) with a 2.0 OR 2 years of military service and a high school diploma. And their standards are on the high side, nationally speaking. In Seattle you just need a diploma or GED.

Your son may be disqualified in other respects (ie, medical/fitness) I dont know. But if he can get an overall 2.0 at any accredited institution (and it sounds like you think he could do that in a community college setting) , he would be good to go at nearly any state or municipal enforcement agency.

The first thing that comes to mind is how, even at 16, it’s difficult to know all the options that are out there. There are so many careers he doesn’t know exist, and so can’t get excited about. At 16 everyone wants to be a football player with a singing career on the side.

So I would start with seeking out careers guidance counsellors, preferably someone with experience with the autism spectrum. They could discuss with your son what it takes to get there, but also other options he might get excited about that fit his skill set and personality. His school will probably have someone, and they might be able to make further recommendations.

The second thing I’m thinking is that he is going to change a lot over the next 4 years. He might never be right for being a policeman, but it’s not really time to set him straight yet, either. Though I’m sure you know him very well and have a realistic idea of his skills, no 16 y/o in the world should be a cop! They all deal with conflict badly, etc.

The third thing I’m thinking is this: getting to know what you are good at is also an important part of growing up. I would try to help him get practical experiences of all sorts of things. Perhaps he could try various kinds of volunteering, and of course there are summer jobs to look at. Perhaps he could join the boy scouts, something like that? By gaining hands-on experience, and with your help relating that to his goals for the future, he might get better at judging his qualities and skills. If he experiences that he does not deal with conflict situations well, he might be better able to relate that to his goals.

Don’t worry Shakes, you won’t have to crush his dreams. You just need to gently guide and help him find the path that is right for him. If he desperately wants something and wants to work towards it and work on himself, then maybe that will be a good experience no matter how it turns out?

Many 9-1-1 callers are scared or simply uncooperative. Being a 9-1-1 operator requires you to be able to turn on a pretty forceful demeanor at a moment’s notice. We call it delivering the Voice of God.
Other ancillary services related to law enforcement might be his thing instead. The PD I deal with has a unit with accountants just for Financial Crimes. Law enforcement employs computer forensic specialists, motor vehicle accident reconstructionists, or crime scene technicians among other specialties that might be within the grasps of the OP’s son.

Leverage the Explorers program (which is part of the Boy Scouts of America, FYI). Have him talk to his adult leader about what he needs to do to advance and get a shot at a job with the police dept. They might have a lot of openings or thoughts - and those guys can also help him get ahead in the interview process.

California doesn’t require a BA to be a cop - so college might not even be required depending on what he wants to do.

Why don’t you check with your local police department to see what the requirements actually are? I doubt a degree would be required, and the assertiveness thing is probably something that is covered in the training once he gets in anyway. How would your son do on the physical tests your police require?

Here arethe requirements for the New Zealand police as an example. There’s no formal educational requirement at all, although there is a psychometric test, a personality questionnaire and a foundational skills (literacy, numeracy and digital literacy) assessment involved.

Don’t crush his dreams if there’s no real reason to!

I don’t think you are being blasé, but if your intention is to protect your son by preventing him from making and learning from his own mistakes, you aren’t doing either you or him any favors. Certainly you should provide guidance and temper his expectations with pragmatic advice, but that doesn’t mean telling him that he can’t do something.

And while the popular visage of a police officer is either the beat cop or detective, there are many, many jobs that are done by police officers (not support personnel) that don’t involve regular interaction with the public, chasing down suspects, et cetera. One of the big initatives for large police departments in the last few years is predictive analytics, e.g. how to use derive useful statistics from crime data and then use it to deploy patrols to prevent crime. Building, using, documenting, and training the tools to use this is becoming a burgening area of effort. And no, one does not need to be an expert statistician or programmer to do this kind of work.

As far as a criminal justice degree, I would agree that this is completely unnecessary and essentially useless as an academic field. If he really wants to get his feet wet before committing, joining a smaller police department as a voluntary reserve will expose him to the training and certification requirements without the committment required to go to school or spend 20 weeks at once in academy. Believe me, the instructors will do a far better job of “crushing” your son’s dreams than you ever could if he can’t make the cut, without the attendant blowback on you.

When you say “medium level autistic”, what exactly does that mean to you? I ask because people have been reinterpreting the term “autistic” to the point that it is being applied to individuals who just have some odd quirks and a mild discomfort with interpersonal skills, which while possibly falling on the autistic/Aspergers spectrum, is nowhere near “medium” (i.e. can perform basic self-care functions but is significantly impaired). I’ve certainly known peace officers who had what I would describe as moderate personality issues, but provided that anger managment and anxiety aren’t among them, they’re not necessarily showstoppers. And to be quite honest, while I’ve known a handful of really smart police officers and detectives, most are of around average or just slightly above average intelligence (my estimate tends to decline the higher up the ranks you go, especially above captains).


  1. Not really sure what autism has to do with this (unless it’s in regards towards the academics).

  2. Is his lack of academic skills due to autism, lack of intelligence or bad study habits? I guess what I’m asking is if there is anything you as a parent should be doing to help him improve his grades?

  3. I don’t think “policeman” is a particularly academic profession. Compared to say, a lawyer or engineer or something. Someone else can speak to the actual requirements.

  4. I don’t think you really need to “crush dreams”. Generally when people learn the actual requirements to be in a particular profession and start actually working towards that goal, they can typically either decide on their own that it isn’t for them or they will push themselves to meet those requirements if it’s something they truly want.
    I’m kind of a “to hit the moon, aim for the stars” sort of person. It’s not like he’ll screw up his life if he fails to meet his goal of being a cop.

There is a fair amount of studying required to learn the statutes and interpretations, and of course a lot of writing reports, testifying in court or in depositions, and so forth. But no, it is not an intellectual occupation, and while I’ve known some highly literate peace officers, again most are quite average in academic ability. The biggest single characteristic a police officer needs to have and display is to remain calm and unperturbed in an uncertain or confrontational situation, and be smart enough to follow procedures as trained and call for support if they are outside their area of authority or ability to effect enforcement.


I would think something like crime scene tech might work well for someone autistic - doesn’t require a lot of interpersonal skills, obsessive attention to detail is a plus, and it’s a vital part of modern crime-solving.

If he’s strong in math there is forensic accounting

I can’t believe that someone would actually want to crush their own child’s dream of a career in law enforcement. You really need to put more thought and research into this in order to make a rational decision concerning your child. 1) There is no way on this planet that an autistic person would be allowed to carry a gun and be an enforcer on that level. 2)An enforcer (police officer) is only a small portion of a police force, as there are more employees than there is officers in this country. 3) Autism can be looked at two ways, a disability or an advantage. Everyone is not rainman, but all autism patients have some sort of gift, it comes with the disorder. There is something that your child is exceptionally good at. 3) forensic science is a fine choice, and can lead to more active roles where alpha males are not needed. 4) Special investigations is another fine department to get into that requires exceptional people. Law enforcement is a whole industry these days and there is a place for your son there I guarantee it.

I guess I should address this: His biggest weakness is math. It’s just not happening for him. If you asked him “What is 100 - 75” It would take him a while to figure out. However, if you stick a calculator in front of him, he could do it. But he can only do it because he memorizes a certain set of sequences to follow to solve the problem (This is how he deals with algebra), he has no real understanding of what’s is going on.
His reading and comprehension skills are decent enough.

His communication skills aren’t terrible but they are under par for a kid his age. And noticeably so.
As to the rest of this thread; thanks for the input guys. I guess I’ll just have to let him figure this stuff out on his own. FTR, that was my initial gut reaction, but then I started to doubt myself because I felt like maybe I’m just avoiding this conversation because it’s such a hard subject to broach. At least I can still offer my support.

Autism doesn’t “come with a gift.” Where did you get that from?

Rain Man and too many goggly-glurge parent sites about horseback therapy, most likely.

So, has he actually been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum by a trained diagnostic psychologist, or was this a pronouncement by a teacher or school counsellor after a casual interview? Nothing in your description reads like definitive impairment associated with “medium level” autism or problems which can’t be addressed by different methods of learning and discipline.


This is going to echo advice I already see here, but I think it’s worth repeating.

As I see it, any kid with an interest in police work should be getting experience with real police work. Set up ride-alongs, for example. Maybe the police even have some kind of volunteer program. These are positive experiences that will put your son in contact with real police officers who can answer his questions without having to be a supportive parent.

If you, as a parent, want to take any role in discouraging the choice, or at least making sure there’s a real thought process, you might try asking questions like “How do you think you’d handle this situation?” or “How would you feel if you had to do this every day?”

But I certainly wouldn’t just come out and tell the kid no. Maybe aspiring to become a cop is the thing that motivates him to become more appropriate assertive in life.

I also have a hard time seeing the college going to waste. Even if he doesn’t become a cop, there are so many careers related to law enforcement and the judicial system. As others have said, not everyone is out on the beat where physical confrontation is likely.

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He was diagnosed at 3yo. He didn’t speak full sentences until he was 5. If you had asked me this question four years ago, you would have gotten a very different response. I’m very pleased that his academic skills have improved greatly in the last few years.