In The Politics of Autism, I write:
[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]
Louisiana has now acted. In addition to the underlying issue, some self-advocates might object to the puzzle piece.
From the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles:
Eligible Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles customers can now request to have an “Autism” indicator added to their identification cards. Qualified applicants include any person diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by a qualified medical or mental health professional. The autism indicator will appear under the customer’s picture on the ID card.
The autism indicator is optional and can be removed from a credential at any time, as requested by the applicant. The “Autism” designation can be displayed on any class identification card, including the TIP, but may not be placed on Class H (Handicap Identification Card) credentials. Applicable fees are required for identification card processing if adding or removing the Autism indicator.
Applicants must provide one of the following documents to the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles in order to have the designation added to an ID card:
• Medical Examiner’s Certification of Autism Spectrum Disorder form completed by the medical or mental health professional
• A statement from a qualified mental health professional licensed in Louisiana or any other state or territory of the United States verifying the applicant’s disability.
An ID card with an Autism indicator cannot include the “Veteran,” “I’m a Cajun” or “100% DAV” indicators. The Autism indicator can only be combined with the “Needs Accommodation” indicator. If the driver’s license indicates “Autism,” but not “Needs Accommodation,” a puzzle piece symbol will appear on the license with the autism designation below the picture. If the driver’s license indicates both “Autism” and “Needs Accommodation,” the autism designation will appear below the picture in addition to “AN” above the picture.
LA Wallet users can display the Autism indicator on their ID Card in the LA Wallet app. If an applicable card is currently linked in LA Wallet, simply unlink it in the menu and add it back to get the updated image