MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Imagine you hear loud sirens, see bright lights, and are stopped by a law enforcement officer while driving alone. Imagine that you are on the autism spectrum and are increasingly overwhelmed with sensory overload well before the officer or a first responder reaches the vehicle. Fortunately, tense situations such as this one can be de-escalated in many situations if the individual has an Autism Spectrum Disorder Identification Card and keeps it handy.
Alabama created and implemented the first state-recognized Autism Identification Card in the United States, and county health departments issue them.
Alabamians who have a diagnosis that falls within the autism disorder spectrum may apply for an identification card that can assist in their interactions with first responders and law enforcement officers during potentially stressful situations.
Wording on the card explains that the individual falls within the autism spectrum and may have difficulty communicating or understanding directions. The card further states that the person may become agitated if touched because of his or her medical condition.
Before a card is issued, a health care provider (such as a psychologist, pediatrician or family practice doctor) must verify that the person is on the autism spectrum. The cards also contain the contact information for someone who can confirm the cardholder’s diagnosis and give information that may help calm the individual. The Autism Spectrum Disorder Card Registration Form (www.alabamapublichealth.gov/disability/assets/autismspecdiscardregform.pdf) may be downloaded, printed and brought to any county health department.
Adult drivers should come in person and bring their government issued driver’s license when applying.
For children and adult family members, parents/caretakers can take their child or adult family member and a government-issued form of identification to apply. The adult, child or adult family member diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder must be present to receive the billfold-sized card. Health department employees issue the card upon receipt of a completed application and payment of $10.