[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]
A New York dad is lobbying for driver’s licenses and state-issued ID cards to start carrying a symbol identifying drivers with autism — an idea he says was inspired by an episode of The Good Doctor.
The ABC medical show, which stars Freddie Highmore as a surgical resident with autism, featured a scene in its Season 3 premiere in which Highmore’s character Shaun struggles on a first date due to a series of unexpected incidents that agitate him. The importance of order and the havoc that unpredictability can wreak on a person with autism got Peter Gagliardo thinking about what someone like his son might do in a tense situation out of the blue — like being pulled over by a police officer while driving.
“It popped into my mind about kids that are on the spectrum,” Gagliardo, a retired firefighter whose 18-year-son Ryan has autism, told WABC. “What happens to my son now that he is driving if he gets pulled over in this instance? What is he going to do if something happens out of the norm?”
Gagliardo’s suggestion: Driver’s licenses and state-issued ID cards that bear symbols notifying officers and officials that someone is on the spectrum. (A mock-up features the puzzle piece logo for the Autism Speaks advocacy organization, but Gagliardo clarified to Yahoo Lifestyle that the design is just a placeholder example of what an autism symbol might involve, and his project currently has no affiliation with the group.)