My daughter is 12 and looks 18. Sometimes I see her holding a box of Super Mario Oatmeal in ShopRite at arm’s reach and saying things like “Super Mario for breakfast!”
Or maybe you find her at Target and wander down Barbie’s aisles like a hunting tiger.
Or you might run into her at Barnes & Noble reading children’s books out loud and out loud.
When I saw her in the moments before she lifted a box of oatmeal into the sky, in the moments before she spied on a Barbie doll, in the moments before she sat in a chair too small to read “Fox in Socks,” I promise you can. You’d think she’d be a normal teenager.
But she’s not normal — whatever that means — she’s been diagnosed with autism, and with it comes unpredictable behavior.
Let me be clear, she’s smart, funny, and the most personable and warmest person you’ll ever meet. When she sees her, at first glance she doesn’t know anything happened.
But there is And cool. And i love her
And I applaud Senator Doug Steinhart’s recent legislation. The bill would require the Automobile Commission to create a special blue envelope for people with autism to keep their driver’s license, registration and insurance cards.
The reason is simple: To warn police officers during a traffic stop that the person they’re dealing with may look perfectly normal, but tends to wear a hat and start talking about Super Mario oatmeal.
“People with autism spectrum disorders often have trouble communicating with others,” said Steinhardt in a press release announcing the bill. “If autistic drivers do not respond to police orders or answer questions as expected, it can lead to unnecessary confusion and escalation during traffic stops. It is preventable.”
he’s not wrong that’s a very good idea.
As Steinhardt points out, autism rates are rising in New Jersey (and everywhere). No one knows if it’s due to environmental factors or better diagnosis. According to the CDC, 1 in 44 people are diagnosed with autism. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than she is, and as my daughter found out, it’s not easy for girls to be diagnosed. One of her hallmarks of autism, for boys, is social withdrawal and not looking people in the eye. However, girls often do not show such symptoms and are often abandoned by doctors.
Either way, there are plenty of people with autism on the streets. The idea that my daughter will one day drive a car is a bit of a stretch, but she suffers from pretty severe gross and fine motor delays. The idea of her being pulled over is passed on by a police officer, and the interaction is downright ridiculous.
“Our proposed blue envelope is a simple solution to help police officers safely complete traffic stops,” says Steinhardt. “As soon as officers are handed a special envelope by an autistic driver, they have a better understanding of the situation and have access to helpful information. It’s good for everyone involved.”
This law should be passed as soon as possible. I ask Mr. Steinhardt and others to continue to create laws to help people with autism and other disabilities navigate the world.
Maybe it’s time to look into the fact that when these kids turn 21, there will be a big change in services as they move from the Children and Families department to the Developmental Disabilities department. From a certain point of view, it’s like the kids playing Little League who immediately transition to Yankee Stadium. An intermediate step is required. This isn’t something that can be fixed as easily as a blue envelope, but suddenly it looks like he has a legislator or two who will listen.