Legislation every autism parent needs to know about
Ironic that something was happening with my child the day that I read about Sen. Anthony Bucco and Sen. Declan O’Scanlon’s bill regarding autistic drivers and licenses.
I’ll get to the irony in a moment.
Their bill would allow autistic people to voluntarily put a special designation on their drivers license so that during a traffic stop or an emergency a police officer or other first responders will see that they are on the spectrum. If you pair that with proper training to recognize what to do for an autistic person if they’re having any sort of episode it really might save a life.
Without the knowledge that a driver has autism an officer might easily confuse a mostly nonverbal driver with a belligerent, uncooperative driver. A first responder might mistake a sensory overload episode with a driver being dangerously high on drugs and combative. An officer’s instinct might have them reacting to behavior mistaken for aggression. They want to go home at night to their loved ones, too.
Because the designation on the driver’s license would be entirely voluntary it’s a solid bill and should become law. I cannot see a single downside to it.
But now that irony I spoke of.
As a father of two young autistic boys I see a huge upside to a law like this. And the very day that I read about this, at school and then at home my 5-year-old child was having a terrible day struggling with his autism. He tried hitting his teacher. He tried hitting his mother. He was beside himself in the worst way. And he was screaming much of the day, rocking, carrying on.
If you didn’t know about autism you would be scared of him. While today he’s right back to being the sweet affectionate kid he almost always is, what if the same thing happened when he is 20 years old and pulled over by a police officer? What if my son was still mostly nonverbal at that point? What if he wanted to cooperate but his autism was just getting in the way? My son would almost surely be thought of as a danger when he’s not.
New Jersey’s autism rate is the highest in the country. According to 2016 CDC numbers 1 out of 32 children in New Jersey now has this mysterious disorder that science is still trying to figure out.
Later, when some of them will be driving, imagine a traffic stop. Now imagine a way for a police officer to know what they’re dealing with.
Please support this legislation. There’s no downside and this can really do some good.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.