This trail-blazing initiative is improving the interaction between law enforcement and drivers diagnosed with a communication challenge or hearing impairment.
The Strength of the Trailblazing “Driving with Autism” Texas initiative is 3-Fold:
- Communication Impediment on Driver License & State ID – Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer is a restriction code now offered on Texas State ID and Driver License for those wanting to alert law enforcement of a challenge with communication. This option is marketed to Texas citizen via PSAs airing statewide as well as tri-fold brochures and posters (Spanish/English) in all Texas DPS Driver License Offices.
Texas Transportation Code §521.125 allows the Texas Department of Public Safety to include a notice on the driver license or identification card of those who indicate they have a health condition that may impede their ability to communicate with a peace officer.
The health condition must be supported by a written statement (Download Physician’s Statement form DL-101) from a licensed physician and presented at the driver license office before the communication impediment notice may be included on the back of the driver license or identification card.
You may go to the Texas DPS website for forms here: TX DPS- Driver License – Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer
- Law Enforcement Training in TCOLE – In an effort to train all Texas Law Enforcement agencies on understanding persons with a Communication Impediment, Jennifer Allen and Aspergers101 has teamed up with the Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities in writing and producing video and training modules available in the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) by October 2019.
- Communication Impediment in TLETS – The option for disclosure of a communication impediment when registering a vehicle through the Texas DMV. If selected, Communication Impediment will be privately placed in the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunication System (TLETS) thus alerting the officer of the challenge PRIOR to approaching the vehicle in a pull-over scenario. Form VTR-216 must be completed by a licensed physician if the applicant has a physical health condition or a licensed physician, licensed psychologist, or a non-physician mental health professional if the applicant has a mental health condition. Form VTR-216 is available online at www.TxDMV.gov or you may click and download Form VTR-216 here.
What constitutes a Communication Challenge? Most common diagnoses include: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Mild intellectual disability, Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Speech & languages disorders, Expressive Language Disorder, Down Syndrome, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Deafness, Brain Injury or Parkinson’s Disease. (more information in downloadables below)
The “Driving with Autism” program began when Jennifer Allen’s autistic 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. Since 2014, Aspergers101 has evolved and developed the Driving with Autism initiative with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, Texas Department of Public Safety and the support of the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities.
The Samuel Allen Law -PASSED!
86th Texas Legislative Session
Aspergers101 proposed a new bill titled “Samuel Allen Law” introduced during the 86th Texas Legislative Session. This bill will allow a person with a Communication Impediment (subcategory: Autism, Asperger Syndrome, Deaf, Hard of Hearing, PTSD, Parkinson’s Disease, Mild Intellectual Disability and more) the option for disclosure when registering their vehicle through the Texas DMV. This will 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.
Media for SB 976: The Samuel Allen Law
April 4, 2019 (WOAI-News4/San Antonio) Adam King reports on Texas SB 976: The Samuel Allen Law and it’s uncontested passage through the Tx Senate Transportation Committee yesterday. What can you do? Contact your Texas State Senator or Representative and tell them of your support for SB 976! We still have many steps to go until it reaches Texas Governor Abbott’s desk but we are well over the first hurdle!
The Samuel Allen Law is being carried by:
Support for “Samuel Allen Law” has been strong! Below lists supporters in both law enforcement and public sector.
“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, Deaf, Hard of Hearing, 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
“This simple coding would revolutionize how officers relate to a driver. Texas would be the first state in the nation to have this innovative tool for our law enforcement- a win/win for both drivers and officers.”
-Jane L Lynch M.D., FAAP/Professor of Pediatrics UT Health Science Center
“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
Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities
Recommendation 8.12: Recommend policy or legislation to have the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and the Texas Department of Public Safety include “communication impediment with a peace officer” data for those individuals who wish to voluntarily disclose a disability within the TLETS data system. When including such voluntarily disclosed disability data, designated agencies shall ensure that (1) all law enforcement officers are trained on this data and its intended use following TLETS implementation and (2) all disability-related information associated with the information stored in the TLETS data system shall remain confidential and storage and use of such data shall adhere to medical confidentiality laws as applicable Read full 2020-2021 Biennium Policy Recommendations for the 86th Legislative Session here.
“We support SB987, The Samuel Allen Law, as this will provide an option for people with communication impairment to disclose this on their vehicle to alert officers of the person’s disability prior to approaching the vehicle in a pull-over scenario. The Samuel Allen Law will allow people with communication impairments to maintain privacy and is a preventative measure that will prevent misunderstanding and save lives.”
-Dr. Berenice de la Cruz/Chief Operating Officer Autism Community Network
Interested in Law Enforcement Training on Autism Spectrum Disorders and other Communication Challenges? Contact Jennifer Allen at Aspergers101 here
Official Public Service Announcement(s)
The Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities and Aspergers101 together announced the new Driver License Restriction Code for Citizens with Autism on Monday April 25th 2016 at the Texas State Capitol.
“Driving with Autism” Handouts
Jennifer Allen (Aspergers101 Founder/CEO) conducted 3 Texas Trooper Training Workshops administering pre and post test questionnaire. These questionnaires were assimilated and submitted by Dr. Louise O’Donnell/UT Health Science Center San Antonio 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.” By Louise O’Donnell, Ph.D. The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, Jennifer Allen, B.A. and Samuel Allen, A.A. Aspergers101, Charles Palcer, B.S. Texas Department of Public Safety and Temple Grandin, Ph.D., Colorado State University.
“Driving with Autism” Camp
(Update: Due to lack of funding, Texas DPS has cancelled the Driving with Autism Day Camp until further notice)
Press Release from the Texas Department of Public Safety
“At the Department of Public Safety, we are uniquely aware that having a driver license can pave the way to independence for many, and we are pleased to provide the communication impediment notice on Texas driver licenses and ID cards. Protecting the safety of all Texans, on and off the road, is the keystone of our mission, and this driver license/ID card option provides vital information that can serve as a powerful communication bridge between this group of Texans and our officers.”- Steven McCraw/Texas DPS Director