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Sunday, January 25, 2015

ID Cards in Minnesota

At The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Gail Rosenblum write of Dawn Brasch  education and training specialist at the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) and mother of a young adult son with autism. When meltdowns happen, she hands out a card.
“This child has autism,” the card reads. “Please be patient while we help our child regain control.”

Now her son carries his own card, beginning with the words, “I have autism.” An explanation of autism is printed on the reverse side.

It’s a sad commentary on modern life that parents and other caregivers, sometimes pushed to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion, have to worry about icy stares, too. But requests for autism cards are growing, in Minnesota and beyond.

AuSM, a St. Paul-based advocacy and education organization, sells five cards for a dollar. Websites now offer many versions, from informational to heartbreaking.

“You can’t imagine what it is like to live like this every day and your stares and whispers do not help,” reads one. “Please educate yourself before you judge. Parents like me need all the support we can get.”

On Jan. 1, the Alabama Department of Public Health began issuing autism ID cards to ease interactions with first responders, such as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical teams. People with autism are seven times more likely to get into trouble with the criminal justice system, due largely to misread cues.

“Those events are often anxiety-producing for anybody,” said Bama Hager, policy and program director for the Autism Society of Alabama, and the parent of a 14-year-old son with autism. “For an individual on the autism spectrum, an interaction with a responder can exacerbate symptoms. For many, verbal communication is quite challenging.”