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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Autism ID Cards and the Dilemma of Difference

[M]any police departments have trained officers and other first responders how to spot signs of autism and respond accordingly.[i] Some organizations have also published identification cards that ASD adults can carry in order to defuse potential conflicts. Virginia provides for an autism designation on driver licenses and other state-issued identification cards. Once again, however, the dilemma of difference comes into play. One autistic Virginian worries: “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?” Clinical psychologist Michael Oberschneider is concerned about the understanding level of first responders: “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.”[ii]

[i] Mary Ann Spoto, “Autism Training For Law Enforcement In NJ Often Leads to Better Outcomes, Expert Says,” Newark Star-Ledger, March 18, 2014. Online:[ii] Greg Hambrick, “Recent Special `Autism’ Code on Virginia Driver’s Licenses and ID Cards Goes into Law: Helpful or Discriminatory for Individuals on the Autistic Spectrum?” Ashburn Patch, July 14, 2014. Online:
According to its website the national average is 1 in 68. One Garden State lawmaker said he wants the New Jersey Department of Health to issue an identification card to a person with autism or an intellectual or other developmental disability.
“My bill (A-4662) says that people that have autism or intellectual or other developmental disabilities would be furnished with an identification card so that if first responders had to respond to a situation they may be able to get more information and maybe make a bad situation a little bit better,” said Assemblyman Sean Kean (R-Wall).
Under the bill, the DOH would post on its website an application form for the card, directions to fill it out and any other information deemed necessary. Printed copies of the form and information would also have to be made available upon request.
“This is not a mandate. This would provide people who want to have this with the ability to have this. It is optional so then you have the opportunity to get this and at no point would we want to put somebody’s privacy into play,” Kean said.
To obtain the card, the application would have to include a statement signed by a doctor certifying that the applicant has autism or an intellectual or other developmental disability. The bill provides for a $10 fee to offset the cost of the cards, but that could be waived by the DOH.
The cards would be designed to fit in a standard wallet.