[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.”Kathie Obradovich at the Iowa Capital Dispatch reports on Tyler Leech, 27, an autistic person who had a stressful encounter with a police officer.
In January, he had an opportunity to visit the State Capitol with a friend, who introduced him to state Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines. He told the senator his story.
On Thursday, the rest of the Iowa Senate heard it. Bisignano encouraged senators to pass legislation to allow drivers who have an autism spectrum disorder to request a designation on their driver’s license.
Bisignano said the measure would alert police officers that the driver has a disability that could account for a demeanor or behaviors that might otherwise be misinterpreted. “This symbol will be up front, when they ask for a license, they’ll know they’re dealing with someone on the spectrum,” Bisignano said in an interview.
Bisignano, who is in the minority party, needed to bypass the normal legislative process to attach the measure to an unrelated bill dealing with farm vehicles. He gained the cooperation of Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, to move the legislation.
The bill provided a rare feel-good moment in the Iowa Senate.
“I’m so darn happy right now,” Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale said. “This is what is right about Iowa.”
The Senate approved the amendment on a voice vote and passed the final bill, House File 2372, unanimously. The House still needs to approve the bill with the Senate changes. Sheri Leech thinks the timing is perfect.