For anyone who is unfamiliar with Phoenix Jones – he is a self-styled “superhero” who can be seen patrolling the streets of Seattle, wearing a black and yellow rubbery-looking costume and mask. As one of my friends told me after a personal encounter with Jones in the University District, “he walks around breaking up drug deals and fights, and looks pretty imposing – he is over 6’5” and has pepper spray and a night stick.” On October 9th, Jones was arrested following an incident in which he dispersed pepper spray into a crowd (he said he was attempting to stop a fight which was taking place). Jones’ real identity, it has been ascertained through court records, and by him symbolically unmasking himself at a press conference, is that of mild-mannered Ben Fodor – an aide who provides life skills training and support to clients with autism. According to recent news reports, Fodor has since lost his contract to provide services through the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services because of possible assault charges which could be filed against him.
As someone who also works with individuals with autism (sans a secret identity, though), I thought this story was intriguing. Let’s just say I find it to be something of a “zany” concept to hear of a guy who dresses up in a faux-Batman suit on days besides Halloween teaching “life-skills” to people with autism. Is someone teaching Phoenix life skills? Because he probably should take on a mentor. However, he would be fantastic as a pretend play facilitator – the guy’s got imagination. But it is also important for children and adults, with autism and without, to differentiate between real life and fantasy – something that Phoenix Jones might not have the firmest grip on.
Posted by: Andy, Speech-Language Pathologist