AUSTIN (KXAN) — We all get nervous when we see the flashing lights of a police car behind us, but for someone with Autism, it can be much worse.
“The more that the officer talks to them, the more anxious they get, the more nervous and stress-filled and that can heighten into even a meltdown situation,” says Jennifer Allen.
Allen’s son Samuel has Aspergers Syndrome, a disorder on the Autism spectrum that can make it hard to communicate with people. When Samuel started driving, Allen worried about what might happen if he were pulled over because it can take people with Autism longer to respond to commands.
“The fear is very real.”
So, Allen started lobbying lawmakers to create a system that would let police know when they’re dealing with someone who has trouble communicating. The final product, years in the making, is the Samuel Allen Law which went into effect on September 1.
It allows people who have any sort of communication impediment, register with the DMV. If they’re pulled over, officers will know about their condition before they approach the car.
“For me, that just gives this general feeling of safety if I were to ever be pulled over by an officer,” says Samuel Allen, who worked with his mom to get the law passed.
The law also applies to people who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have mild intellectual disabilities. Until they had to put a sticker on their car or get a special license plate that let officers — and everyone else — know about their condition. Allen says that could make those people a target.
Allen also helped create a state program that allows people with a communication impediment get a special notification on their driver’s license. The new law aims to prevent a misunderstanding before you’re asked to show your license.
She also helped create a training program rolling out this year that will teach DPS troopers how to handle people with communication challenges.
“I feel so much safer,” Allen says.