Whether to drive with High Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome is as individual a question as is the person. For many there is no interest in obtaining a drivers license as public transportation more than serves the purpose. For others, the heightened sensory issues and accompanying ADD make driving an almost dangerous venture. However, for those truly wanting the independence that driving can bring but fear the strong potential for communication mis-understanding with a law enforcement officer…we may have some good news that’s on the horizon!
In the United States, the Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Transportation policies varies from state to state. Though many countries/states have various polices in place concerning driving with an impairment or disability, it’s not enough….we need more.
My son Sam (age 20) and I reside in the State of Texas and presented a plan that would notify law enforcement, through a drivers license restriction, of autism in an individual. A newly assigned restriction code would alert an officer of the law that this person has Autism and is wired differently: most likely not understanding sarcasm, social cues nor respond well to threats or loud sounds. The restriction “Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer” is available through Texas DPS. Once established with internal coding in the T-LETS (Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System), any law officer would know prior to approaching the vehicle, that the driver has challenges with communication. That part (T-LETS) is not yet established but is currently being looked at within the DPS as is the restriction code being placed on the front of the drivers license as well as the back.
As it stands today, if you live in the State of Texas (hopefully other states will soon follow suit) here are the steps you need to take to get this protective/restriction code on your drivers license.
Adding Communication Impediment to your driver license is simple:
1) Have your physician complete and sign a Physician’s Statement Form (DL101) affirming the autism diagnosis.
2) Visit your local driver license office for a driver license application (DL14A/S). Be sure and complete Line 7 (or like the Texas Veterans Commission, you could extract the line from the form for emphasis)
For all Driver License forms go to www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense
We have a friend in the Texas DPS/Drivers License Division. The person looking into the current system and how to better it is the Assistant Director of the Driver License Division within the Texas Department of Public Safety, Mr. Joe Peters. He and his team members (pictured below) have listened and fully embraced all that Sam and I brought to the table on behalf of the Autism/Aspergers Community. With the decision-makers around the table, much was discussed and put into the works for getting drivers like Sam, independent without the communication fear that lies within many with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The collaboration between Aspergers101 and the Texas DPS/Drivers License Division, now established, is on-going and currently developing the best options possible. When the official Press Release from the Texas DPS becomes available we will certainly share all the details with you!
Many thanks to Texas State Representative Mr. Lyle Larsen (District 122 R-San Antonio) who heard our presentation and worked diligently with the DPS to establish a collaboration with Aspergers101 and move forward with the common goal of driving safely with Autism.
Another special thank you for the efforts from San Antonio’s Autism Community Network as they provided Medical facts, from the DSM-V, that support the need for a Communication Impediment acknowledgement and understanding from our law enforcement agencies.
As I stated in the opening paragraph, driving is a huge decision for anyone, especially those challenged with special needs. If this is an endeavor you feel is right for you or your child, remember to take it slow and allow their emotional side to catch up to their physical years. Thats important as many decisions while driving may take a more mature emotional driver than the neuro-typical 16 year old embarking on Drivers Ed.
Aspergers101 is committed to this and will continue to not only work with the DPS but to create a new subject category of “Driving with Aspergers101” on this website keeping you informed all along the way.
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