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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Autism ID Cards

At WBRC in Birmingham, Christy Hutchins reports:
The Alabama Department of Public Safety and the Autism Society of Alabama are partnering to bring certification cards to state.
These cards would be issued to people diagnosed with autism to help clear up any confusion there could be when dealing with emergency personnel.
The cards will be similar to ones that state a person has been medically diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and that their medical condition impairs that person's ability to communicate with others.
Bama Hager, with the Autism Society of Alabama said Alabama is one of the first states to sign this into law.
"We had families that really reached out to the state legislature and asked for some sort of identification," said Hager.
This law went into effect on January 1. The card will also have contact information on the back so emergency personnel can call family members.
In 2014, Virginia Governor McAuliffe signed "JP's Law, providing for a voluntary designation on licenses and other state identifications   At the Ashburn Patch, Greg Hambrick wrote:
Just a few days into the law, Dr. Michael Oberschneider describes a very mixed response on it from his patients with autistic spectrum disorders. And within his outpatient therapy practice in Northern Virginia, he has already identified a trend in which adult and younger patients appear to have concerns about the law for themselves, while the parents of younger patients appear to be embracing it.

More specifically, several adults on the autism spectrum in Dr. Oberschneider’s practice have expressed fear that the law could become discriminatory for them. One adult patient shared, “Great, so if I get into an accident, who’s the cop going to believe, the guy with the autistic label or the guy without it?” And Dr. Oberschneider himself shares some of the same concern that JP's Law could also create moments for profiling or discrimination to occur. Dr. Oberschneider asserts, "Even though autism is more in the public eye today than ever before, that does not necessarily mean people understand it. To the contrary, I think many people still think of Rain Man or, more recently, the Sandy Hook Shooter, when they think of autism even though very few people on the autistic spectrum are savants or are homicidal and dangerous." Adequate education should, however, serve to dispel incorrect beliefs about autism for law enforcement agents. 
In July, Annette Galagher reported at the University of Miami:
Imagine that you are an adult with autism who at times has difficulty communicating and are sensitive to both flashing lights and loud noises. You get pulled over for speeding, or another traffic infraction, by a law enforcement officer who is unaware of your disability.
Watching your reactions to the siren and flashing lights, the officer mistakenly thinks you are impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Imagine you’re a teen with autism, waiting for a friend in a public place, and you begin pacing. A lot. A store manager sees you pacing and assumes that you’re up to something and calls security. They don’t understand that pacing is just what you do when you’re bored or stressed, and they want you to leave immediately.
Now imagine both of those situations defused by a piece of paper, a simple identification card that explains the nature of the holder’s autism and how it manifests itself. The police officer turns down the lights and gives the person she pulled over more time to answer questions. The security guard explains to the store manager that there’s no mischief planned, just a teenager waiting for a friend.

That is the goal of a new ID card that is a joint venture of theUniversity of Miami Center for Autism and Related Disabilities(UM-CARD), the Coral Gables Police Department, and theDisability Independence Group (DIG).
Diane Adreon, associate director of UM-CARD, said that the ID card concept was truly a collaborative idea that grew out of the group’s work with Coral Gables Police and DIG to conduct Miranda rights training for teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their parents, as well as adults with autism.