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Thread: Handling the mentally handicapped?

  1. #1

    Handling the mentally handicapped?

    Had an encounter recently that really got my wheels turning and wanted to ask others here about their thoughts.

    Was out shopping with the family recently, and suddenly up comes a store worker who is obviously mentally handicapped. He gets rather close while initiating some random conversation. My son and wife are both obviously uncomfortable, yet we all made an effort to be polite and understanding while opening the distance a little. The whole thing lasted about two minutes with the guy just kinda talking on random stuff before he finally walked off.

    My wife has had an uncomfortable encounter with this individual before, to the point he followed her outside one day and she hopped in the car quickly and left. She made a complaint to corporate about him following that incident, stressing that he could've wound up seriously hurt with his behavior.

    I've sat and mulled over how to best handle such incidents with an individual who may not fully comprehend having it communicated they need to back off. In the event it came to any use of force, no matter how little, it could be made in to quite a fuss because of the individual's mental deficiency.

    What thoughts or recommendations are there regarding handling cases such as these?
    "There is no timer in a gunfight. However there is another guy trying to shoot you, and he's probably in a hurry."

  2. #2
    100% Retro Hambo's Avatar
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    We had a man in the neighborhood with similar issues. Depending on his day or meds, not sure which, he would be irritating with irrational conversation or mildly aggressive. When he was irritating I would just tell him to go home and he did. On the aggressive days he would stand in the street screaming. On those days I told him that if he didn't go home I would call the police, at which time he would go home. He was never physically aggressive but I always kept an eye on him.

    Yesterday my wife and I stopped at an old school sort or tourist place for lunch. There is often an elderly gentleman with a woman I presume to be his daughter. She has some sort of genetic defect (worse than Down Syndrome). She came up behind me and tugged on my shirt tail. I just ignored it and her father told her to come back to their table.

    In your case I would tell the guy that he needs to get back to work before his boss seems him slacking.
    Last edited by Hambo; 08-12-2017 at 08:32 AM.
    Never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs.

  3. #3
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    Avoidance,deescalation,deterrence. I'll add documentation. If you can avoid the location and/or your family can then that should be the first step since your wife has had 2 contacts now. Staying calm and attempting to distract the person while your family walks away is reasonable. If or when that doesn't work then some short,abrupt phases may be needed in escalation like"move away from" Back off etc.. to very clearly state intentions to the person and anyone nearby if the contact continues or closes. After that pepper spray is likely the best option before combatives but both should be unlikely in most cases of innocent mentally challenged persons approaching.

    Document the incidents with video/audio and make documented contact with the store manager and corporate people. If you have no alternative to shop elsewhere then seek documenting the contacts with police reports and possible restraining order. I can't imagine being limited to going to the business with no alternative even if the alternative is less convenient the whole thing can be eliminated by going somewhere else.

  4. #4
    100% Retro Hambo's Avatar
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    We're talking mentally handicapped, not mentally ill.
    Never, of course, explore the guts of an idea that seems as if it might threaten one of your more cherished beliefs.

  5. #5
    Site Supporter Clusterfrack's Avatar
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    There's an older guy with some challenges who works out at my wife's Crossfit gym. The females at the gym constantly have to remind him "no hugging", "no touching", "stop staring at me", etc. I was there one day and saw one woman push him away when he got too close. I'm impressed by how patient everyone is with this guy.
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by HCountyGuy View Post
    Had an encounter recently that really got my wheels turning and wanted to ask others here about their thoughts.

    Was out shopping with the family recently, and suddenly up comes a store worker who is obviously mentally handicapped. He gets rather close while initiating some random conversation. My son and wife are both obviously uncomfortable, yet we all made an effort to be polite and understanding while opening the distance a little. The whole thing lasted about two minutes with the guy just kinda talking on random stuff before he finally walked off.

    My wife has had an uncomfortable encounter with this individual before, to the point he followed her outside one day and she hopped in the car quickly and left. She made a complaint to corporate about him following that incident, stressing that he could've wound up seriously hurt with his behavior.

    I've sat and mulled over how to best handle such incidents with an individual who may not fully comprehend having it communicated they need to back off. In the event it came to any use of force, no matter how little, it could be made in to quite a fuss because of the individual's mental deficiency.

    What thoughts or recommendations are there regarding handling cases such as these?
    As for the handicapped people themselves, avoid them if they're behaving badly if you can. The last thing you want is to dominate a use-of-force incident against a bag boy with Down's Syndrome.

    These folks require a lot of individualized training to get to the point where they can hold down a job, and it takes specialized intervention to correct their on-the-job behavior. Unfortunately, their first-line supervisors are usually acting on corporate initiatives to employ them, and have little or no training in how to deal with them, so they can't be of much help.

    The place to apply pressure is on the people who advocate for these folks. I've had to work with some of them, and they firmly believe that their constituents are utterly incapable of hurting anyone. They honestly don't give a shit if you stop doing business with the store in question because it doesn't hurt their bottom line. They also think that you're over-reacting and that with a little more love you'll see that this behavior isn't really a problem. The only way to get their attention is to document what's going on, let them know that you're documenting it, let them know that you're willing to take it higher within their organizations, and that you're willing to involve law enforcement and the courts if necessary. THAT could threaten their funding, and that's about the only thing that gets their attention.

    But as always, the best course of action is to steer clear of problematic people to the extent that you can.


    Okie John
    Last edited by okie john; 08-12-2017 at 12:40 PM.
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  7. #7
    The thing to remember is, they can go from being smiley and happy and your best friend to angry and violent real quick. There's a mentally handicapped guy who lives down the street from the gym my family and I train at. He stops in to watch class from time to time and most of the time he just sits and watches and tells people "good job". On occasion he will become disruptive by talking, interrupting, and walking onto the mats with his shoes on and the gym owner will tell him he needs to go home and he leaves. A few months ago, myself and the gym owner had to forcibly remove him from the building in front of a gym full of people, and it broke our hearts to do so. The reason both of us restrained him and removed him was that was the only way to get him out without hurting him. I hate the word when used to describe an actual mentally handicapped person, but the term "retard strength" wasn't made up out of thin air. We had no way of contacting his mother to come pick him up, so we had to call the police who knew him well.

    As it turns out, him having to be removed from places is SOP for him, and the fact he was so well behaved at the gym and only had to be removed once in like 5 years is outside of his normal behavior. Even the times where I was present when he was asked to leave and complied, he was never remotely close to being violent or angry. Apparently since he was a young teen, his mother has just let him wander around town all day by himself.

  8. #8
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    I've worked with these folks in years past. They read body language in many instances. Remaining calm helps keep them calm. What is not widely known is that some of the unfortunates have a second and sometimes third diagnosis. For example: developmental issues to include retardation and bipolar and addiction. That's right some are addicted to street drugs as well as prescription drugs obtained illegally. Some funding models paying the mental health center that works with them are based on the number of diagnoses. Hence, the more medicine they take. I'm convinced that their doctors in many cases do more harm than good by prescribing to be prescribing. I did not stay there long. They and I had a different philosophy about doing business.

  9. #9
    Interesting.

    It can be a shitty situation.

    Learning how to communicate with the mentaly handicap and the mentaly ill is not easy for everyone. You really need to learn how to direct them. I'm not sure there is such a thing as a therapeutic communication class but if there was, it would be worth looking into.

    Try not to get agitated, just relax. Be genuinely calm or it may be escalated.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 03RN View Post
    Interesting.

    It can be a shitty situation.

    Learning how to communicate with the mentaly handicap and the mentaly ill is not easy for everyone. You really need to learn how to direct them. I'm not sure there is such a thing as a therapeutic communication class but if there was, it would be worth looking into.

    Try not to get agitated, just relax. Be genuinely calm or it may be escalated.
    A lot of truth there. I used to work assisted living with the mentally handicapped, including some who could be very violent. We had an extremely high turnover because most people can't stay relaxed and steer the client to a new direction when things start going sideways. The people who excel at that job are those who do stay genuinely calm. Everyone else would escalate the situation until something or someone was broken.

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