Local Police Get Pointers on Dealing with Autistic Drivers

Respected, internationally known autism expert Dr. Temple Grandin provided local police officers inside information on how to recognize signs of autism spectrum in drivers they pull over, and how not to misinterpret those signs, which could possibly lead to trouble, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Jennifer Allen, who runs 'Autism 101' says, for example, people with autism frequently don't understand sarcasm, and will take common expressions literally.

She said if an officer asks an autistic driver why he was 'flying down the highway' the officer is liable to get a response that could be misinterpreted

."The guy will say 'I'm not flying, I'm driving'," she told the officers.  "You could immediately get the idea that this person has an attitude problem."

Allen said due to efforts by her organization and others, the Texas DPS now allows a message 'COMMUNICTION IMPEDIMENT' to be printed on Texas driver licenses, to give the officer a head's up.

There have been reports of officers arresting autistic motorists because they don't understand how the differences in brain activity can lead to what, especially in this day and age, can be interpreted as hostile behavior.

She says, for example, autistic individuals can't process more than one command at once and cannot 'multi-task.'  She says it is common for officers at the start of the traffic stop to deliver several instructions, like 'keep your hands on the whee,' 'don't get out of the car' and 'show me your license.'

"If you ask a question and then you ask another and then you ask another, they are going to sit there and stare at you, and then they are going to start to panic."

Dr. Grandin also provides courses for autistic individuals on how to respond in case of a police stop.

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