Sam Allen, Young Man With Autism, Campaigns for Notice on Driver's Licenses
Thanks to the efforts of one San Antonio man on the autism spectrum and his mother, the Texas Department of Public Safety (TXDPS) is promoting several new initiatives for autistic drivers.
Sam Allen and his mother Jennifer, founder and CEO of the nonprofit awareness and advocacy organization Aspergers101, collaborated with TXDPS to spread the word about an optional “communication impediment” notice that can be placed on the back of driver’s licenses. Though the option has been available for some time, many people were unaware of it.
“These initiatives are truly groundbreaking. I have peace of mind knowing that I’m protected with the communication impediment driver license notice,” Sam Allen, 21, said in a TXDPS press release. “The ability for me to drive is a stepping stone toward a life of independence; and I am grateful that initiatives like the ones announced today are changing the way law enforcement interacts with those with autism or other communication challenges.”
DPS spokesman Sgt. Lonny Haschel, who has a family member on the spectrum, added that the notice, which can also be utilized by drivers with conditions such as Down syndrome, stuttering and hearing loss, helps facilitate communication between drivers and officers.
“Being a police officer is a very dangerous occupation, because you never know who you’re going to encounter when you’re making a traffic stop,” Haschel told The Mighty. “Having that kind of understanding back and forth when we encounter an individual that may have a communication impediment is going to make our job that much that better, and make it a much better community service.”
TXDPS will offer additional training and education about autism spectrum disorders for its officers and recruits, in addition to hosting a “Driving with Autism” camp in concert with Aspergers101.
The camp, slated to launch later this year, will feature classroom instruction, hands-on driving practice and role-play scenarios with officers.
Jennifer Allen said the initiatives establish a precedent for both the law enforcement and autism spectrum communities.
“Much of my fear about my autistic son driving has been eased thanks to the Texas Department of Public Safety. I deeply appreciate that DPS responded to our efforts to raise awareness and seek meaningful policies that accommodate those with a communication challenge related to autism, Asperger’s syndrome, brain injury or other speech impediments,” Allen said. “These initiatives set the stage for powerful well-rounded programs that other states hopefully will emulate.”