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IL Estate Planning Blog

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

New Card Helps Disabled Communicate with Police in Stressful Situations

Like most parents teaching their children to drive, Aurora resident Lori Price had some advice for her son, Colin.

“As a parent, you correct your kids and tell them, ‘You didn’t make a complete stop, or you’re going over the speed limit,’” Price said.

As Price was correcting Colin during one of their driving lessons, he began to argue with her. Not as a form of teenage rebellion, Price said, but because in his mind he believed he was right.

“It came to me that if he were stopped by a police officer ... an argument might ensue” because law enforcement officials may not be familiar with how people with autism, like Colin, process and respond to information, Price said.

“If you and I were pulled over by police, it’s a stressful situation but we can talk through that and we know what we need to do and how to communicate effectively and coherently,” she said. “He may shut down. He may not know what to say.”

Concerned that law enforcement officials may misinterpret Colin’s silence or self-stimulatory behavior – such as clapping – Price reached out to Illinois Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, to see if the state could create a disability awareness card that could be used to prevent a situation from escalating unnecessarily.

“During this time there seems to be miscommunication with police officers and offenders, [and things] could escalate quickly,” Price said.

Kifowit sponsored legislation that went into effect Jan. 1 creating an awareness card that people who have been medically diagnosed with an intellectual, developmental or mental disability can carry with them.

One side of the card states the person in possession of the card has a disability which may impair their “ability to communicate with others, especially strangers or in stressful situations.” The card also details some behaviors the person may exhibit.

“On the back of the card, there’s also an emergency contact name. If officers or first responders come into contact with an individual who is not responsive or agitated or is showing signs of nonconforming, they can call the number of the back of the card,” Kifowit said.

“And that person can come and assist officers or give them an idea of how to handle the person. The whole point of the card is really to reduce any situation that could escalate unnecessarily.”

Price agrees.

“This is not a get out of jail free card. It’s not a pass. This just explains my behavior that I exhibit might be something you’re not familiar with,” Price said. “If they’re speeding, they’re speeding and should be ticketed for that but not for something else where it escalates.”

At the start of the year, 100,000 cards were distributed to Illinois Secretary of State offices statewide and were made available at no cost to individuals with disabilities who fill out an application.

While 19-year-old Colin Price needs some more time behind the wheel before getting his license, Price is “relieved” that he will have this card with him.

“It’s a tremendous relief because my son has a hard time communicating, especially when he’s under pressure or stress,” Price said.

Card Sample:

Side 1:

I have been medically diagnosed with an intellectual, developmental or mental disability. My medical condition may impair my ability to communicate with others, especially with strangers or in stressful situations. As a result of my condition, I may present as a person who:

  • Appears deaf or unable to understand
  • Has difficulty speaking or communicating
  • Engages in repetitive or self-stimulating behaviors such as rocking

or hand flapping

  • Appears anxious, nervous or upset
  • Becomes agitated due to physical contact or stressful situations
  • Acts indifferent or unresponsive

Please do not interpret my behavior as refusal to cooperate.

(Please see reverse side for additional information)

Side 2:

To better communicate with me it can be helpful to speak slowly and clearly, repeat questions, and allow time for responses.

If those techniques are unsuccessful, I request that you contact the person noted below on my behalf as s/he will confirm my diagnosis and provide information you may need about my identity or condition.

____________________________________                                 _____________________________________

My Printed Name                                                                                                           Contact Printed Name

____________________________________                                  _____________________________________

Disability ID Card Number                                                                                        Contact Phone Number

This card was printed by the Illinois Department of Human Services and distributed by the Illinois Secretary of State pursuant to 15 ILCS 335/4A-1. The Illinois Secretary of State is not criminally or civilly liable to anyone for any fraudulent misuse of this card. More information is available at: www.cyberdriveillinois.com/publications/disabilitypub.html.

DHS 4645 (N-12-16) Wallet Card Printed by the Authority of the State of Illinois. 100,000 copies P.O.#17-0803

 

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