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Thursday, March 17, 2022

Blue Envelopes and Implementation

[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.”
Another problem:  identification methods do no good if cops don't know about them.

Siobhan McGirl at WVIT-TV:
Sonia Turner said she will never forget the day her son, Jordan, got his license. She remembers him coming back from his test with a huge grin, telling her that he had passed.

"It was one of the happiest days of his life," said Turner, who lives in Windsor.

Turner said she was also happy, but she felt mixed emotions.

"Very, very nervous," said Turner. "Very scared, but I knew this was something he had to do."

Jordan Turner is on the autism spectrum. His mom said that he might communicate differently, especially in a potentially high stress situation like a traffic stop.

"Someone who doesn't know that he has autism might think that he's being disrespectful, or that he is being unruly, or he's resisting what they are telling him to do and that's not the case," said Turner.

In January of 2020, a new program was created in Connecticut to address concerns just like Turner's. The 'Blue Envelope' was created to enhance communication between a police officer and a driver with autism.

But when Turner went to her local police department to get an envelope for her son, she had some trouble actually finding one.

"The sergeant that came to the window had no idea what I was talking about," said Turner. "If we have tools like the blue envelope put into place - why is it so difficult to get?"