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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Autism ID in Michigan and Iowa

[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.”
On June 11, Michigan State Senator Tom Barrett issued this release.  Yesterday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the legislation.
The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Sen. Tom Barrett’s legislation to help bridge the communications gap between law enforcement and drivers with autism.

“Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to work with autism advocates across the state — including, and perhaps most importantly, my constituent, Xavier DeGroat — on an initiative to help improve law enforcement’s approach when dealing with people on the autism spectrum,” said Barrett, R-Charlotte. “The result was a bipartisan, bicameral package of bills to provide officers with vital information regarding potential communication hurdles during traffic stops, and to equip them to have positive interactions with drivers with autism or other communication impediments.”
Senate Bill 278 would allow a vehicle owner or their family member who is on the autism spectrum, is deaf, or has hearing loss or other health condition that could impede communication with a law enforcement officer to choose to put a “Communication Impediment” designation on a vehicle registration, driver’s license or both. This voluntary designation would be visible to law enforcement when reviewing the vehicle’s registration or license through the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) — signaling to the officer that the owner or a family member has a health condition that may impede communication.
LEIN is a secured system not accessible to members of the public, which will protect the privacy of those who volunteer this information about themselves or their family members. Police officers routinely access the system during traffic stops.
SB 279, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., would also allow the same eligible applicants to add the designation to their enhanced driver license or enhanced state ID card application.
House Bill 5541, sponsored by Rep. Frank Liberati, would allow an individual to elect a communication impediment designation on their state ID.
Xavier DeGroat of Delta Township is the founder of the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation and was diagnosed with autism at age 4. He has been a tireless advocate for those with autism to improve their quality of life and opportunities.
The bills were part of ideas highlighted at a “Policing Autism” event in April 2019 attended by Barrett and hosted by DeGroat’s foundation and Lansing area local law enforcement leaders.
 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.