[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.”
From New Jersey Senate Democrats:
The Senate today approved bipartisan legislation that would foster greater understanding and communication between law enforcement and the communicative disabilities community by requiring the Motor Vehicle Commission to allow the holder of a driver’s license or non-driver identification card to indicate that the person has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or communication disorder.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou and Senator Kristen Corrado, would require the MVC to indicate the diagnosis by notating the information on the person’s driver’s license or non-driver identification card under the column designated for restrictions. The goal is to make it easier for the person with the disability to more easily communicate with any law enforcement officer they may encounter and hopefully serve to limit the chances that an ordinary interaction, such as a routine traffic stop, will escalate into a more fraught or even violent confrontation.
“Too often, in recent years, some interactions between law enforcement and individuals with communicative disabilities have led to negative outcomes, simply because of a communication barrier. This legislation is designed to be a preventative measure that will help improve that communication and minimize the chance of escalation or a negative incident,” said Senator Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic).
The legislation, S-849, is aimed at protecting members of the communications disability community and also to help law enforcement better understand and communicate with them.
The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 39-0.