MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Getting pulled over can be a nerve-wracking and stressful situation. Now imagine if you have issues communicating or focusing, and an unpleasant situation could turn into a nightmare.
Alabama residents who have been diagnosed with Autism can now carry around a special card that can be used as a communication tool.
Karen Willis does not let Autism define who she is.
"My journey with Autism has its triumphs and challenges, but I'm human just like everyone else, and I want to be able to live life the best I can," said Willis.
For the 23-year-old, that means being independent and being able to drive.
"I like being able to go places when I want to go, whenever I want to get out of the house," Willis explained.
But if the Autism advocate were to get pulled over, that would be a scary situation, she says.
"The sound of the siren or the lights might frighten them, and they might act in a way that's not typical," said Dr. David Bicard, Clinical Director at Great Leaps Learning Center. "If a first responder is giving them a command and they don't follow the command they could appear as if they're behaving irrationally or abnormally, but its just part of their disorder," he explained.
This over stimulation may frighten people like Karen but thanks to a little yellow card, concerns are being put at ease. The card explains to others that the person may have difficulty communicating or understanding directions. The billfold-size card also says that the person may become agitated if touched.
"We wanted to help law enforcement and any first responders to realize that maybe this person is a little agitated because he falls within the Autism spectrum disorder and to reflect and help this individual through the process," said Jamey Durham, Director, Bureau of Professional and Support Services for the Alabama Department of Public Health.
The state health department and the Autism Society of Alabama rolled out the Autism ID cards, helping both first responders and those who fall within the spectrum, better communicate.
"The police, if I ever got in contact with any law enforcement, it would help understand me better and treat me better," Willis believes.
Durham says the cards were initially created for Autistic drivers but the response has been so great, parents of Autistic children want them. "We've had parents call and say "Listen, I have an Autistic child and I would just like to have one of these cards so they can have it at school if something excites them," it would be nice to know they had that card in their purse or pocket that they could share," he said.
To obtain a card, print up the form at http://adph.org/disability, and take it to your diagnosing physician. After it's been filled out, verifying that you have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, take the signed form to any county health department to obtain a card.
There is a $10 fee.
For assistance and more information, you can contact the Autism Society of Alabama, www.autism-alabama.org, 1-877-4AUTISM or 1-205-951-1364. You can also contact Jamey Durham at 334-206-5634.