Autism and such

Yesterday, I received a petition in my in-box against adding an indication on someone’s driving licence – in the state of New York – that the person is autistic.

I am torn over that.

More confusingly, the e-mail asks me both to help support and oppose the bill and refers a letter in response – by autistic people, that is nowhere to be found (because the link to the document went .

When I searched for it, by clicking on links in the e-mail and clicking on other links, I did find it, here:
And upon reading that letter, and the entire e-mail, it becomes clear that the word “support” (the bill) in the e-mail should have been “oppose”. A typo.

I can see both sides and I don’t know what the golden compromise would be.

Discrimination is not a good thing.

But it’s happened – and not just once –  that police officers unleashed a lot of violence at someone who was (or still is, if the person survived) autistic. Or simply deaf. Because police officers didn’t realise it.

Would an indication on someone’s driving licence help? On some occasions, yes, I am sure. In many other circumstances, not at all.

For autistic people, I can imagine it might help more if they simply call one of their friends or relatives whenever they encounter misunderstandings. Would that work in practice? I don’t know. Police officers often act first, ask questions later. Someone trying to take a phone out of his pocket, it could easily be misinterpreted as the person going for a gun, in some countries.

It wouldn’t work for deaf people as they might not even be aware that one or more police officers are calling out or yelling.

The main problem appears to be that driving licences are also used as ID in many situations in which disclosing that someone is autistic serves no good purpose, certainly in the States, where most people have no passport as Americans have a giant country at their disposal and rarely have a need to cross an international border.

Any good ideas? Is this a real problem or does this kind of stuff happen just as often to people who are not autistic?

Wearing dorky glasses or having become a bit shy because of some things that happened to you does not mean that you’re autistic. As far as I can tell, people who are autistic have brains that work differently and that makes them look at the world differently. Autistic people may lack abilities that other people have in varying degrees (social skills) but they also have abilities that others lack and they’re certainly far from “stupid” or “naive” or whatever else may be said about that. I too find autism very hard to understand, but I watched a video a few days ago that I first found very confusing, but when I thought about it some more, it became highly enlightening. Maybe it is not that dissimilar from, say, synesthesia (in which the senses overlap and words printed in black and white can have colors or pitch, for example).

3 thoughts on “Autism and such

  1. This is how I’ve responded. I wrote the following e-mail.

    Hello Mr. Heastie, Mr. Sayegh, Mr. Magnar and members of the Transportation Committee:

    I have heard about Bill A08711 DMV Autism Mark on NY Driver’s License.  It took me some time to figure out where I stand on this.

    I am not autistic.  I do not have autistic relatives.  I am not a resident of NY, but I’ve lived in the U.S. and a friend of mine lives in NY.

    Recently, I have had reasons to look into what autism is and into the many ways in which it can manifest and I have had to come to the conclusion that there is NO VALID REASON for including on the driving licenses of all autistic people that the person is autistic, for the following reasons.

    1. People are often misdiagnosed. The medical fields that focus on brain-related conditions that affect behavior and mental functioning lag significantly behind on the attention for conditions that have only or mainly physical consequences.  Psychology and psychiatry are inexact and still highly subjective.
    2. Driving licenses serve as ID, certainly in the U.S., where many people have no passport because they don’t need one as they have a vast country at their disposal with a wide range of climates and landscapes.  Having an autism mark on one’s driving license could easily foster stigmatization and serves no practical purpose.  It is comparable to having a mark on your driving license when you have aids or leukemia or pigment dispersion syndrome.
    3. I looked into how the matter is dealt with in the U.K. (which does not always take the wisest approach in such areas). 
    • I learned that some autistic people but not all qualify for “Blue Badges” (disability badges displayed in cars), for example when not being able to park in a certain spot but having to drive around and park at a distance in practice means autistic people/autistic family members become cooped up in their homes.
    • Also, the British equivalent of the DMV, the DVLA, has recently clarified that autistic people do not have to disclose their autism diagnosis to the DVLA if it doesn’t affect their ability to drive safely.  The online advice to drivers and medical professionals now reflects this.

    That sounds highly appropriate to me and I recommend that you too take that approach. 

    Thank you for taking this into consideration.

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