WNYC Studios Announces “Aftereffect”
A New Podcast Series Examining How America Fails People with Developmental Disabilities through the Experiences of an Autistic Man Involved in a Police Shooting
Hosted by WNYC Health Reporter AUDREY QUINN
“Aftereffect” Debuts Today
(New York, NY– June 21, 2018) – Today, WNYC Studios announces AFTEREFFECT – an eight-episode podcast series that examines how America fails developmentally disabled people through the experiences of Arnaldo Rios Soto, a 26 year-old autistic and intellectually disabled man involved in a high-profile police shooting incident in North Miami, Florida.
In 2016, a viral video captured the moment Rios Soto and his behavioral aide Charles Kinsey were confronted by police when a motorist mistook a silver toy truck Rios Soto was holding for a gun. During the incident, police fired a shot that hit Kinsey in the thigh. They later explained it was meant for Rios Soto. The shooting was one more terrible episode of police violence against unarmed people of color; and its impact on Rios Soto also revealed a community and nation devastatingly unprepared to meet the needs of autistic adults.
Hosted by WNYC health reporter Audrey Quinn, AFTEREFFECT chronicles Rios Soto’s life leading up to his encounter with law enforcement, and takes a deeper look at what happened after the cameras and the reporters moved on – including his placement in psychiatric wards, group homes, and an institution. Through his experiences, the series shines a light on the lives of hundreds of thousands of autistic and developmentally disabled adults, who age out of the school system each year and enter a world unaccommodating, if not hostile, to their presence.
AFTEREFFECT is the first major podcast to address the country’s deadly lack of support for autistic adults, and to include the voices of autistic people themselves who are facing this crisis head-on.
“This particular shooting not only epitomized the worst fears of black families across the country, but also the fears of autistic people – those who feel invisible, powerless, and who feel in a lot of ways threatened for their very survival,” said Quinn. “With AFTEREFFECT, we wanted to explore the story hidden beneath the headlines, and a shine a light on how a system meant to serve the interests of developmentally disabled adults in turn ends up failing them.”
AFTEREFFECT is available today at wnycstudios.org, Apple Podcasts, and all other places where podcasts may be downloaded. The series will release new episodes every Monday and Friday through July 13. It launches in partnership with NPR’s Embedded, which has released an episode pegged to the series here. Additional partnerships include The Washington Post and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting. The podcast is also featured on NPR One.
Episode descriptions are as follows:
Episode 1: “Let Me Get This on Camera”
Just before 5pm on Monday July 18th, 2016, a 26-year old autistic man named Arnaldo Rios Soto walked out of his North Miami home. He had a silver toy truck in his hand. Hours later, his life would be changed forever. A passing motorist mistook Rios Soto’s toy for a gun and called 911. Police and SWAT arrived and the confrontation was captured in a cell phone video. The encounter left Rios Soto’s behavioral aide – a black man named Charles Kinsey – severely wounded, and it left Rios Soto in need of round-the-clock care. As a result, three police officers lost their jobs, including the now-former North Miami chief of police, Gary Eugene. In his words: “We blew it.”
Episode 2: “Suck it up, buttercup”
The shooting left Rios Soto severely traumatized, unable to remain in the home where Charles Kinsey had taken care of him. The next day, he was involuntarily committed to a hospital psych ward, where days stretched into weeks into well over-a-month as the state of Florida struggled to find a new home for him. Eventually, Rios Soto finds himself in a new facility with a well-documented track record of abuse and neglect. It’s Halloween when we first meet Rios Soto face-to-face. Ironically, after everything he’s endured, the staff have dressed him in a police uniform costume.
Episode 3: “He was definitely a handful”
Since the beginning, Rios Soto’s mother struggled to find adequate care for her autistic son. Her memories are often painful: the doctors who wouldn’t diagnose him; the staff who punched him, drugged him, tied his hands behind his back in a classroom chair. These early experiences shaped Rios Soto. In this episode, we talk with a number of people who’ve cared for him. They recount a sweet, affectionate young man who was also capable of violent outbursts and fits of rage. Hidden beneath Rios Soto’s story is a disability-services system starved of funding; facilities trying to squeeze every dollar out of their residents; and staff members willing to restrain their clients by any means necessary.
Episode 4: “I Baker Act you. You Baker Acted me.”
The day of the shooting wasn’t Rios Soto’s first encounter with the police. In fact, they’d loomed large in his life for years before that. Even as he bounced from one group home to another, the people that consistently showed up for him, often in the worst way, were the cops.
Episode 5: “I need to believe”
A year and a half after the shooting, there are signs of trouble at Rios Soto’s new group home, Carlton Palms. The staff isn’t keeping an eye on him. There are unexplained injuries. His mother isn’t allowed to see his room and he’s being physically restrained in a full-body mat for getting out of bed at night. And yet, his family continues to hope that this is the right place for him.
Episode 6: “When they don’t behave”
A cup of hot water thrown on a developmentally-disabled resident. Another kicked in the ribs. A tooth knocked out by a staff member. Carlton Palms is known for abuse and even death. So why is the state of Florida so reluctant to close it?
Episode 7: “The man behind an empire”
For decades, Carlton Palms’ elusive founder, Ken Mazik, has wielded his power and influence to sway members of Congress and state legislatures into bending the rules in his favor — from scuttling laws that would limit the use of physical restraints, to securing permission from the state of Florida to amass a fortune in Medicaid funding. As one of his former employees told us, “Ken Mazik made millions of dollars tying up little kids.”
Episode 8: “They call him Cheese”
One day in February, a group of staff packed up Rios Soto’s belongings, moved him out of Carlton Palms and into a three-bedroom house in a suburban neighborhood. On its face, it’s the type of setting disability advocates strive toward. Rios Soto has his own bedroom, more autonomy, a staff that looks after him. At the moment, Rios Soto is the only resident. He’ll eventually share the house with two other men, but just days before the first is slated to join Rios Soto, the individual dies - under suspicious circumstances in the care of Carlton Palms.
WNYC’s health coverage and Aftereffect by Only Human is supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Jane and Gerald Katcher and the Katcher Family Foundation, Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Thanks also to the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism.
ABOUT WNYC STUDIOS
WNYC Studios is the premier producer of on-demand and broadcast audio, home to some of the most critically acclaimed and popular podcasts of the last decade, including Radiolab, 2 Dope Queens, Nancy, The New Yorker Radio Hour, Freakonomics Radio, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin, Note To Self, On the Media, and A Piece of Work with Abbi Jacobson. WNYC Studios is leading the new golden age in audio with podcasts and national radio programs that inform, inspire, and delight millions of intellectually curious and highly engaged listeners across digital, mobile, and broadcast platforms. Their programs include personal narratives, deep journalism, interviews that reveal, and smart entertainment as varied and intimate as the human voice itself. For more information, visit wnycstudios.wnyc.org.