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OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — If a new bill passes next legislative session, Oklahomans with autism may soon have the option to share their diagnosis on their driver’s license or state ID.
State Rep. Nicole Miller (R-Edmond) tells Fox 25 she wants to improve the relationship between Oklahomans who have autism and first responders.
“Really to kind of prevent the escalation of there being a misunderstanding there,” State Rep. Miller said.
House Bill 3671 would give Oklahomans with autism the option to have an identifying mark on their driver’s license and state ID.
“To help them communicate or indicate to law enforcement in any interactions that they might communicate differently than many other people would.”
Miller got this idea from Emily Scott.
“This is all so personal to me,” Scott said. “I have an adult son on the spectrum who I want to keep safe.”
As someone who also serves as the executive director for the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma (AFO), Scott says people with the diagnosis are seven times more likely to interact with law enforcement than the general population.
“National data tells us that about one in every three autistic teenagers are getting a driver’s license. So with an ever-increasing population, we want to make sure to keep Oklahomans with autism safe.”
It’s why the bill touches on having safety experts train law enforcement officers to identify and effectively communicate with someone who has autism. The legislation says the Department of Public Safety (DPS), in consultation with Service Oklahoma and Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET), must develop a program.
“With all the different pieces of information,” State Rep. Miller said. “Just education piece of communication disorders, and what that looks like.”
Scott says having everyone on the same page during this situation is so important.
“One can frankly Google ‘autism and police interactions,’ and see a lot of concerning stories nationwide of instances that have happened. So we also view this as a preventative measure. We don’t want stories like that coming out of Oklahoma.”
This bill would also require Service Oklahoma to create a statewide registry that officers could access. It would have license plate and registration information, emergency contacts and any other information that may help first responders when interacting with someone who has autism. Someone who submits their information to the registry would be allowed to revise, update or remove themselves at anytime.
Service Oklahoma shared the following statement with Fox 25:
Service Oklahoma administers driver license services on behalf of the state. We will continue to do so in accordance with all laws and statues passed by the legislature.
DPS tells Fox 25 “we don’t comment on bills that are not DPS bills.”
AFO shared the following facts about autism and first responder interactions:
- According to the CDC, 1 in 36 children and 1 in 45 adults in the U.S. have autism.
- In the U.S., almost 20% of youth with autism report having police contact by age 21.
- A 2019 study of autistic adults with few support needs found that 53% of participants had four or more interactions with the police in their lifetime.
- A 2020 study found that officers who had more knowledge about autism felt they were better equipped to handle interactions with autistic people.
- Research indicates that persons with developmental disabilities, including autism, will have up to seven times more contacts with law enforcement than a member of the general population. These contacts can be public safety emergencies or criminal justice situations.