San Antonio Family’s Autism Education Efforts Lead to New State Law

by: Roseanna Garza/Rivard Report
August 29th 2019

“A patrol officer driving on a local freeway came across a young man wielding a two-by-four in the middle of the inside lane as cars zoomed quickly past. Upon approaching him, the officer, whom SAPD declined to identify, quickly recognized the youth had a cognitive impairment and was not suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues.

Using communication skills learned from the Allens, the officer talked the young man into putting the piece of lumber down, and then helped him get off the freeway and return safely home.”

-San Antonio Police Chief William McManus  (for the rest of this story, click on the link above)

BONNIE ARBITTIER / RIVARD REPORT

New Law Protects Texas Drivers diagnosed with Autism, Deaf or Hard of Hearing

EXPLAINED: The New Process and Form(s) for Registering your Vehicle as a Person with a Communication Challenge in Texas

Effective September 1st 2019: The Samuel Allen Law (Senate Bill 976) enacted by the 86th Legislature, adds Transportation Code Section 502.061, allowing an applicant to voluntarily indicate at the time of initial registration or registration renewal that they have a health condition or disability that may impede effective communication with law enforcement.

Samuel Allen/Spokesperson Driving with Autism Initiative

Present the completed certification below to your local county tax assessor-collector’s office when applying for initial registration or renewing registration. Presentation of the completed certification will authorize the addition of a communication impediment notation to your motor vehicle record. This notation will inform law enforcement you have a health condition or disability that may impede effective communication with a peace officer.

Background

The Samuel Allen Law will allow a person challenged with communication, (Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deafness, Hard of Hearing, PTSD, Parkinson’s disease, Mild Intellectual Disability and more) the option for disclosure when registering their vehicle through the Texas DMV. Communication Impediment will be privately placed in the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS) thus alerting the officer of the challenge PRIOR to approaching the vehicle in a pull-over scenario. This unprecedented law will not only save lives by alerting law enforcement for better communication, but will also keep the diagnosis hidden from public scrutiny as opposed to bumper stickers or license plate designations. Note: Texas DPS already offers “Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer” as an optional restriction code on State Driver License or ID. 

Form VTR-216 (below) must be completed by a licensed physician if the applicant has a physical health condition or a licensed physician, licensed psychologist, or a non-physician mental health professional if the applicant has a mental health condition. Form VTR-216 is available online at www.TxDMV.gov or you may click on the form below to download here.

Click on Form to Download

If you choose the option to disclose a communication impediment to be placed privately in the Texas TLETS, you will need to submit Form VTR-216 at time of vehicle registration renewal with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The Samuel Allen Law takes effect September 1st, 2019 in the state of Texas.

What constitutes a Communication Challenge (Impediment)? 

Most common diagnoses include: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Mild intellectual disability, Deafness, Speech & languages disorders, Expressive Language Disorder, Down Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Deafness, Brain Injury or Parkinson’s Disease

For more information on the Texas Driving with Autism initiative and the Samuel Allen Law click here.

For questions regarding the process of vehicle registration with the Texas Department of Vehicles, you may contact:

Caroline Love/Director of the Government and Strategic Communications Division for Texas DMV
Caroline.Love@txdmv.gov (512) 465-1484

Samuel Allen Honored at Texas State Capitol

Effective Sept. 1st 2019, The Samuel Allen Law will allow individuals with conditions that may affect their communication abilities, the option to disclose that information when registering a vehicle with Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

AUSTIN, TX (August 15th 2019) Samuel Allen speaks to the media from the Texas State Capitol/Governor’s Press Room

AUSTIN, Texas — Aspergers101’s Samuel Allen was honored at the Texas State Capitol yesterday for his work pushing for an act that helps individuals with conditions that may affect their communication abilities better interact with law enforcement.

What this Means to Texas Drivers

Senate Bill 976 (SB 976), also known as the “Samuel Allen Law,” allows a person with a condition or disability that may cause them communication issues – such as Autism, Asperger’s, Deafness or Hearing Impairment, PTSD, Parkinson’s and more – the option to disclose that information when registering their vehicle through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

If an individual with one of these conditions has elected to make that known on their vehicle registration and then they are pulled over, the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System will alert the officer prior to approaching the vehicle that the person may have trouble communicating.

The act also removes the need for a bumper sticker or license plate marking so the driver’s condition is kept private. The Samuel Allen Law, which goes into effect September 1st, will be the first of its kind in the nation.

Jennifer Allen, Founder/CEO of Aspergers101 and championing the “Driving with Autism” initiative, said that the passage of SB 976: The Samuel Allen Law is the remaining piece of the puzzle for the program she began almost 5 years ago with Texas DPS. Supported by the Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities, Allen’s “Driving with Autism” initiative has three (interacting) working components to better communication between Law enforcement and Texas citizens with autism or other communication challenges:

  1. Driver License – Option for Texas Drivers to place “Communication Impediment” as a DPS restriction code directly on the Driver License or State ID with state-wide marketing campaign including placing informative posters and brochures in all Texas DPS offices.
  2. Law Enforcement Training – Texas Law enforcement training modules placed directly in TCOLE (the online training for all Texas law enforcement) to better understand drivers diagnosed with autism and/or other “Communication impediments”
  3. TLETS- Option for Texas Drivers to acknowledge a “Communication impediment” upon DMV vehicle registration thus alerting officers privately through Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS).

What constitutes a Communication Challenge? 

Most common diagnoses include: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Mild intellectual disability, Deafness, Speech & languages disorders, Expressive Language Disorder, Down Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Deafness, Brain Injury or Parkinson’s Disease.

For more information on the process of registering your vehicle with Texas DMV, please contact:

Caroline Love/Division Director/TxDMV Government and Strategic Communications 512.465.4019 Caroline.Love@TxDMV.gov

Click here for more information on The Samuel Allen Law and the “Driving with Autism” Texas initiative:

More on Driving with Autism Initiative

For Drivers with ASD A Visual Checklist for Complete Vehicle Maintenance

The importance of understanding how to maintain your car

Drivers with ASD, especially those who have little experience, often neglect to learn about vehicle maintenance. They do not receive car maintenance information in driver’s education courses and may feel persuaded to initially think that it does not matter.

Car Speedometer Symbols

Unfortunately, when lights come on in their cars or if their cars unexpectedly die on them, they may become confused as to how to deal with such situations. Parents must educate their driving children, especially those with Aspergers, about the various situations that could arise when transportation fails. These issues include schedule changes and a dependency on alternative transportation.

Behind the Wheel with Autism: A Personal Perspective

Having lived in several different cities, I can attest that it most certainly is not a regional thing: you’ll run into idiot drivers no matter where you live. It isn’t profound at all; many casual conversations begin with a gripe about traffic on the way to someplace or another, or end up there eventually. Driving is a serious source of stress for many, even under the best circumstances. And for people diagnosed with Autism, they are already functioning under decidedly less than the best of circumstances, and the idea of getting behind the wheel can cause anxiety.

I found that I did not have a great deal of difficulty behind the wheel. Having a nice, large, rarely-traveled stretch of land to practice on, and taking as many opportunities to practice, is the first thing I recommend for those who are diagnosed and want to drive. It certainly helped me. After enough practice, it became second-nature.

Contrary to the assumption that driving is the natural enemy of the Autistic because it demands multi-tasking, it really isn’t so difficult as all that. It has a nice and structured set of regulations, and your task is simple: start at one location, and control the vehicle in order to safely reach the next.

Anyone who has ever played a game, whether analog or digital, can tell you that while rules and setup are intimidating at first, once you see how it’s done and try it for yourself, it isn’t as hard as all that.

To the Autistic person who wants to learn to drive but feels rather intimidated, just think of it as a video game.

Tips for the Asperger Driver When Being Pulled Over by an Officer

AS101 Driving with Autism

For many with Autism a fear of driving stems from anxiety that can result from being pulled over by an officer of the law. In some cases, fear of just that very scenario is the reason many never pursue obtaining their driver’s license.

pull over, police officer

Good communication skills and actions are key to making an already stressful situation go without incident for anyone, but with the diagnosis of autism, Aspergers, or speech impediments misinterpretation is almost a certainty. Dr. Louise O’Donnell, who specializes in Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio Texas, offers suggestions to make a ‘pull-over’ go without incident.


Dr. Louise O’Donnell/UTHSC : Part 1

Things to remember when you are pulled over:

The Aspergers Driver and Keeping Focus

Driving with Autism Series

Parents often find that they must explain things in full detail and repeat the same things many times for their Aspergers children. This stems from the fact that Aspergers individuals often forget things that lie outside of their general sense of familiarity or that they spontaneously lose their focus when they fixate on a particular sight.

In addition, Aspergers individuals often take caution when dealing with matters unfamiliar or unsafe to them. They want to know all details before tackling something new, challenging, or risky. This is especially true in the case of the inexperienced Aspergers driver.

Of course, any typical vehicle has everything necessary to allow the driver to observe his surroundings by default. The real issue is that the driver often has trouble effectively using those tools across a wide variety of scenarios, such as lane-changing, crosswalks, hills, and sharp turns with limited forward visibility.

Whether the issue encompasses infrequent use or misuse, the Aspergers driver takes unnecessary risks when they fail to use the proper techniques that ensure safe travels.

There is one simple three-step solution to this issue:

  1. The driver must educate themself before taking to the streets
  2. The driver must get experience in using all features of the car to their advantage in every possible way
  3. Always know where to look in a given moment when driving; use all mirrors frequently and know when to use each of them the most

Learn more about AS101’s “Driving with Autism” here!

Please consider donating to help support this initiative.

Or buy your own “Driving with Autism” car decals and magnets!

DONATE TODAY

drivig-with-autism-decal-with-texas-2

“Driving with Autism” is an AspDriving with Autism logoergers101 series that educates and empowers the driver diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Aspergers101 has teamed up with the Texas DPS in training Texas State Troopers about the uniqueness of Autism and understanding the Autistic driver. This partnership is garnering encouraging results.

Article by Reese Eskridge

Reese Eskridge

Reese Eskridge is a Production Technician with Fairville Products, who is passionate about working in the sciences (biology) and wishes to take his work experiences further into the fields of Educational Neuroscience; Science Fiction; Freelance Writing; Disability Advocacy; Public Speaking; Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Aspergers101 is proud to offer the insights and perceptions of the talented Mr. Eskridge, who is obviously living life on the spectrum to it’s fullest!

You may contact Reese at: reeseesk@udel.edu

Aspergers and Driving Judgment – Planning to Make it Clear

Driving with Autism

Aspergers youth process information differently than their neuro-typical peers. More specifically, they generally think in a visual, concrete, detail-oriented manner for every task. They like to know every detail about something, especially when it is critical to survival and to excellence at a given task; driving encompasses both survival and excellence.

Driver’s education courses and books serve as necessary and insightful preparatory activities for the inexperienced and exceptional driver. Further, each driver has different habits and preferences, good and bad. When a driver or parent uses these habits advantageously, they serve as indicators for level of comfort and as foreshadowers of future mistakes.

Among the most common and serious issues that Aspergers youth face is the fact that many of them do not always think fast enough to make snap decisions. This issue especially applies when Aspergers drivers travel in unfamiliar places in general.

For example: an Aspergers driver who usually travels on two-lane in-state roadways near his home would likely have trouble navigating through a series of one-way city streets in Baltimore, MD, considering that he does not typically watch out for one-way signs there.

As a safeguard, they desire to stick with the same few routes every day because they fit into their pre-established driving parameters. These parameters could include the avoidance of bridges due to fear of heights or bumpy roads due to sensory overload caused by bouncing in the seat.

Let’s face it, unpleasant stimulation and loss of direction often triggers meltdowns and panic attacks in the Aspergers driver, thereby further clouding his judgment. Behind the wheel, one bad situation leads to another.

To resolve these issues, there are actions that parents and Aspergers drivers can both take to make judgment clear in order to ensure safe travels.

4 Tips for Drivers with Aspergers to Get Comfortable Before They Hit the Road

Driving with Autism Series

Drivers with Aspergers like to have every detail in place in accordance with their personal preferences. They want to precisely change things like the climate control and the radio. These changes allow for comfort and, therefore, enjoyment while driving.

However, one thing to note is that the drivers may have trouble changing these things while they drive. The best thing to do is to make adjustments before the car rolls.

Here is a brief list of suggestions for the Aspergers driver to feel comfortable in their vehicle in order for them to focus only on the road while driving:

  1. Take any items out of pockets and find places for them in the car so that they are secure, but safely out of the driver’s way;
  2. Always wear a seatbelt, no matter what! Make sure that the driver adjusts the strap so that it is not painful or itchy;
  3. Purchase a solar shield that specifically fits the car and use the air conditioning during the hot days. Anybody, especially an Aspergers driver who has sensory hypersensitivity, could not bear to sit in a car with an excessively hot interior. During the warmer weather, use a solar shield and crank up the air conditioning to eliminate stifling heat; then drive when the inside cools down. The opposites apply to cold weather.
  4. Study the car and determine where all of the switches and buttons are so that the driver can quickly adjust while driving. It always helps to know where to find all of the specific gizmos in a car so that the driver can push the buttons without looking at them for more than a split second. Further, such features on the dashboard particularly intrigue Aspergers drivers, considering that they always feel compelled to know EVERY detail about their vehicle. Simply allow the driver to examine the car’s interior and to experiment with all of the various gizmos.

These constitute four of many things that certainly ensure driver comfort. The note to drivers is to identify what offers comfort and what does not and to always feel comfortable behind the wheel.

Learn more about AS101’s “Driving with Autism” here!

Please consider donating to help support this initiative.

DONATE TODAY

drivig-with-autism-decal-with-texas-2

“Driving with Autism” is an AspDriving with Autism logoergers101 series that educates and empowers the driver diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Aspergers101 has teamed up with the Texas DPS in training Texas State Troopers about the uniqueness of Autism and understanding the Autistic driver. This partnership is garnering encouraging results.

Article by Reese Eskridge

Reese Eskridge

Reese Eskridge is a Production Technician with Fairville Products, who is passionate about working in the sciences (biology) and wishes to take his work experiences further into the fields of Educational Neuroscience; Science Fiction; Freelance Writing; Disability Advocacy; Public Speaking; Leadership and Entrepreneurship. Aspergers101 is proud to offer the insights and perceptions of the talented Mr. Eskridge, who is obviously living life on the spectrum to it’s fullest!

You may contact Reese at: reeseesk@udel.edu

“Driving with Autism and other Communication Impediments”

:30 Public Service Announcement

We at Aspergers101 would like to thank all who’ve taken part in getting the “Driving with Autism and other Communication Impediments” initiative state-wide in Texas! Through your comments we’ve edited the final Public Service Announcement, added closed captioning and it is now airing across Texas on both TV and radio stations…thank you! The framed posters and informative tri-fold brochures are now in all DPS Driver License Offices informing citizens of their option to utilize the restriction code informing law enforcement of the diagnosis of: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deafness, Parkinson’s Disease, Mild Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome, Mutism and other communication challenges. You will begin to see other diagnosis highlighted, we will have someone whose been deaf since birth sign in a PSA similar to Sams. What a blessed journey this has been for our family…to God be the Glory, great things he has done.  – Jennifer Allen/Founder & CEO Aspergers101

 

So what is a communication impediment with a Peace Officer? 
Most common diagnosis include: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Mild intellectual disability, Deafness, Speech & languages disorders, Expressive Language Disorder, Down Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Deafness, Brain Injury or Parkinson’s Disease.

How can you get Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer on your Texas driver license or state ID?

Only two actions required:
1. Have your doctor complete and sign a Physician’s Statement, Form DL101, affirming the Autism, Asperger, speech disability or other appropriate diagnosis.
2. On driver license application KL14A/S be sure and complete line 7 on the form.

For more information contact Jennifer Allen at: jallen100@att.net or go to: https://aspergers101.com/drivingwithautism/