As Shelia Hill and her teenage son Marlon stroll down the sidewalk at Medal of Honor park, conversing about the latest video games, she has a lingering maternal fear, like most mothers, about what could happen to her son if she’s not around to protect him.
A fear that magnifies tenfold because Marlon is autistic and approaching the age coinciding with a desire for more independence.
“The thing about children with autism and especially him and his personality, if he’s in a strange situation and he feels uncomfortable, he’s going to do one of two things; either get mad and he’s going to fuss and use profanity which happens with autistic children or he’s going to shut down and mumble,” Hill described.
Hill said her son’s behavior can easily be misinterpreted for disrespect or noncompliance. “When he starts mumbling, you can’t understand him. So, if the first responders or police officers get there, he’s not going to be able to tell them what’s wrong or what happened.”
That’s why she said her son will benefit from a new Autism Spectrum Disorder ID card offered only in the state of Alabama.
The cards rolled out in every county health department around the state earlier this spring. Applicants looking to carry the bright yellow identification in the wallet, simply have to fill out an application that requires a signature from a doctor verifying their condition.
The cards cost $10. Autusim Society representative Angel Loewen said the idea behind the identification cards sparked from North Alabama families urging lawmakers for a suppliment autistic drivers could keep with them in case they were ever encountered by police.
“It’s something that we designed that was originally intended for teens and young adults but we’ve heard from a lot of familes with small children,” Loewan said.
Sheila Carr and her 6-year-old twins fall under that category.
“They go to the same school, Kate Sheppherd Elementary, and everyone knows them there. If they were to go on a field trip, hang out with Dad, or see their Aunt, and something happened, no one would know anything.”
Carr said her family would benfit from the cards because she wouldn’t worry as much if the twins got out of her sight.
A worker at the Mobile County Health Department said they’ve only had one applicant so far, but as the word spreads, they’re ready for more to walk through their doors.
LINK TO ONLINE APPLICATION: http://adph.org/disability/assets/AutismSpecDisCardRegForm.pdf
MORE INFORMATION: http://adph.org/disability/