[M]any police departments have trained officers and other first responders how to spot signs of autism and respond accordingly. 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.”Lauren Gibbons at MLive:
When Xavier DeGroat got pulled over for going over the speed limit in Lansing five years ago, it wasn’t long before the flashing lights of the police car and the interaction with law enforcement gave him severe sensory overload anxiety.
DeGroat, the founder and CEO of the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation, has autism, and he said the stress of the situation made it difficult for him to communicate with the officer or provide required documentation in a timely manner.
“The police did not know, the police would not imagine just by looking at me,” he said.
DeGroat’s experience helped inspire bills passed unanimously in the Michigan Senate last week that would let drivers with autism or hearing loss voluntarily disclose a “communication impediment designation” to the Secretary of State when obtaining a driver’s license or registering their vehicle.State Senator Tom Barrett, who sponsored the bills, explained them:
Senate Bill 278 would require the secretary of state to allow a vehicle owner who is on the autism spectrum, is deaf or has hearing loss to choose to put a “Communication Impediment” designation on their vehicle registration. This voluntary designation would be visible to law enforcement when reviewing a vehicle’s registration through the Law Enforcement Information Network — signaling to the officer that the owner has autism or a hearing issue.
SB 279 would also allow the same eligible applicants to add the designation to their enhanced driver license or enhanced state ID card application.
The bills were part of ideas highlighted at a recent “Policing Autism” event attended by Barrett and hosted by the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation and Lansing area local enforcement leaders at the Anderson House Office Building in Lansing.