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New laws provide tools for drivers with autism and hearing issues

Posted at 5:51 PM, Jun 24, 2020

LANSING, MI (WSYM) - — Michigan has new laws designed to make it easier for police to know if they're talking to someone who has autism, or hearing problems.

Now those on the autism spectrum or who suffer with communication difficulties will be able to select an option when applying or re-applying for their drivers license, state ID, enhanced ID, or registration.

Xavier DeGroat, CEO of the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation was diagnosed with autism at 4-years old and has been a key figure championing the legislation.

"I faced being pulled over before and I was very focus and fixated with a phone call and a police rushed me to answer his questions when he had me roll the window down. It made me very eager to disprove the mistreatment and allow other people with the same chan have better chances at getting what they need when pulled over with slower reaching them, and giving them more tones, and more social distance to allow the person on the spectrum to not be so stimulated," said DeGroat.

The bills signed into law Tuesday allow those with hearing issues or autism to make their diagnoses visible by police.

"This is a step in the process in ensuring that those encounters do not end up in a bad situation," said Colleen Allen, President of the Autism Alliance of Michigan.

Police are alerted when looking up the license or registration during traffic stops.

"It's a great resource for us undoubtedly. There's a lot of times where we run into individuals where we're not sure what the diagnosis is. We don't know and there's this communication issues where we don't know what's going on. They may seem to be defiant, under the influence of narcotics where they're being violent and we're not sure what's going on but it's just their way of communication with us and we don't have an understanding of that," said DeWitt Township Police Chief Mike Gute.

Gute and of his staff participated in autism training with the Autism Alliance of Michigan. Allen says more training for all officers is the next step.

"The identification piece is one step. It's the responding and knowing how to respond to circumvent any types of problems," said Allen. "What this legislation does is it alerts those officers, okay this is an individual where I may have some issues with my communication with this person or my interaction with them, but then we want to make sure they know what to do," said Allen.

The laws go into effect July 2021.