Louisiana House passes a bill inspired by a resident with autism
BATON ROUGE - Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, doubled during the past two decades.
With that increase, lawmakers changed rules for drivers licenses to include an autism indicator, similar to an organ donor symbol.
But two-thirds of teens with autism do not drive and carry different ID cards.
That led the parent of one man with autism to approach lawmakers about rewriting the rule that only applied to licenses.
Michael Hayden Jr. pulls his neighbor’s garbage cans to the road and mows their grass every week. As a person with autism spectrum disorder, he does not let it stop him from being a good neighbor.
“He’s got a whole little business,” Hayden’s father, Michael Hayden Sr., said.
Hayden Jr. was one of many people with autism who did not benefit from a law allowing an autism symbol on a driver’s license.
“I think that most people would probably be frightened of their autistic child, who they probably never let out of their sight, go take off in an automobile,” Hayden Sr. said.
Hayden Jr. and his dad brought this concern to their state representative, Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, R-Orleans, Jefferson.
“She went and checked it all out,” Hayden Sr. said.
Hilferty’s new bill would benefit the younger Hayden and the many other residents with ASD who do not drive.
“This will now add the identification card to the list of state IDs where you can get the autism spectrum disorder designation,” Hilferty said.
It also includes training for authorities on how to communicate with people with autism.
“This will help both parties in the interaction,” Hilferty said. “Law enforcement, they can look at that, recognize that designation and think back to that training.”
The older Hayden hopes this indicator will protect his son in stressful situations.
“If the situation were to arise when they would need to present an ID, perhaps to authorities, it would give an opportunity for the police to understand a little more about the person they're interacting with,” Hayden Sr. said.
But the bill means even more to the elder Hayden.
“I think this type of recognition would foster more understanding and appreciation for these special people,“ he said.
The bill received overwhelming support from the House with a unanimous vote.
Hilferty will introduce the bill to the Senate this week.
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