A Revolutionary Resolve between Drivers with Autism and Law Enforcement
Introducing…. “SB 976: The Samuel Allen Law” being carried by Texas Senator Bryan Hughes (R) for Aspergers101. While it is still just a bill it is weeks away from going to the Texas Legislative floor for vote in front of the House, Senate and then Governor for hopeful passage.
If passed, this bill would allow a person with a Communication Impediment (subcategory: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deafness, Hearing Impairment, PTSD, Parkinson’s Disease, Mild Intellectual Disability and more) the option for disclosure when registering their vehicle through the Texas DMV. This would place the diagnosis privately in the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS) alerting the officer PRIOR to approaching the vehicle in a pull-over scenario. This will not only save lives, it will keep the diagnosis hidden from public scrutiny as stated in SB 976 section e:
(e) Information supplied to the department relating to an applicant's health condition is for the confidential use of the department and the Department of Public Safety and may not be disclosed to any person.
History of the Driving with Autism Initiative:
Jennifer Allen, founder of Aspergers101 and the Driving with Autism initiative said that the passage of this bill would be the remaining piece of the puzzle for the initiative she began almost 5 years ago. “Driving with Autism” began when her son Sam wanted to obtain his driving permit. Upon realizing that “Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer” was a restriction code option on the Texas driver license, she and Sam approached the DPS DL office counter with all documents only to be met with confusion on the validity of the code. Assuring the DPS employee that she had found this option on-line it took a call to DPS Headquarters in Austin to confirm. Jennifer knew that if DPS was unaware, the public is unaware and a valuable tool was being overlooked by all.
It was from this point that Jennifer and Samuel approached the Texas DPS with a plan. Their non-profit, Aspergers101, would absorb all costs and promote the unknown code not just to those diagnosed with Autism, but to all diagnosis falling into the established “Communication Impediment’ category.
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.
This included legislation (which passed) with HB 1434, allowing Aspergers101 to place posters, brochures and PSAs in all Texas DPS Driver License Offices in both English and Spanish languages. In addition, :30 Public Service Announcements were produced and aired in all major TV markets across Texas. informing citizens of the new option on their Driver License or State ID.
Another aspect of “Driving with Autism” is the Law Enforcement training on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Aspergers101 teamed up with Dr. Louise O’Donnell and UT Health Science Center in San ANtonio Texas, Dr. Temple Grandin and Texas DPS Sergeant Charles Palcer conducted 3 Texas Trooper Training Workshops administering a pre and post test questionnaire. These questionnaires were assimilated and submitted by Dr. O’Donnell and were formally presented at the Texas Psychological Association Convention on November 11th 2016. This poster is now published as an evidence-based program titled: Increasing Law Enforcement Officer Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders” proving the effectiveness of need for police training on autism. This training to better understand those with a communication challenge continues today. To learn more and schedule law enforcement training from Aspergers101 go here.
Jennifer Allen says that if SB 976: The Samuel Allen Law passes, Aspergers101 will make available the entire “Driving with Autism” initiative for other states to implement. “It is common sense program that works on behalf of both the autism and law enforcement communities. A win-win as a better way toward communication and understanding. The “Driving with Autism” initiative is broken into 3 parts:
- Option as a DPS restriction code on the driver license or state Id
- Law enforcement training on understanding autism
- Option to place communication impediment upon DMV vehicle registration thus alerting officers through the TLETS statewide system.
Remember this is a choice and not mandatory. Some may not want for law enforcement to know of their diagnosis however, know your privacy of diagnosis is protected under the proposed law and not available to the public as with notification cards or bumper stickers.
Supporters of the Bill
“It is extremely helpful for drivers who have a communication impediment to have the option to declare it on their driver’s license. They should also have the option of specifying a subcategory of the impediment such as autism, Asperger Syndrome, deafness, PTSD, stuttering, cerebral palsy, or etc in the TLETS. This data should be in the police computer system (Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System) so that a police officer will know that the communication impediment exists BEFORE he/she approaches a stopped vehicle. This will help prevent a life threatening misunderstanding.”
– Dr. Temple Grandin
“I support the legislative efforts of Ms. Jennifer Allen to reduce the risks of misunderstandings between police officers and Texas drivers who have communication impediments. Effective communication between officers and those stopped on traffic is critical for the safety of all involved. Providing officers with this critical information before approaching the vehicle and interacting with the driver may allow for more effective communication and a safer interaction between the parties.”
– Art Acevedo/Houston Chief of Police
“There is no question that the Driving with Autism initiative will provide officers with critical information by alerting law enforcement of impediments such as Autism, Aspergers, PTSD or more, prior to approaching the vehicle. On behalf of the SAPD, I am proud to support this proposed legislation.”
– William P. McManus/San Antonio Chief of Police
SB 976 The Samuel Allen Law is being carried by Senator Bryan Hughes (R).
The Honorable Bryan Hughes
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, TX 78711 (512) 463-0101 (TEL)
To read the entire SB 976 The Samuel Allen Law, go here.
For more on “Driving with Autism” initiative go here.
Aspergers101 will keep you posted!
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- Suspect Aspergers? - May 14, 2019