London is taking steps toward improving interactions between its police and autistic citizens. Now people with autism who live in the capital of the United Kingdom can receive autism alert cards and passport schemes from the police free of charge.
They explain basic conditions of autism as well as the name and contact information of the person bearing the card. They can be carried in a bag, pocket, or wallet and easily produced to show authorities or emergency personnel.
The hope is that having this information readily available without having to try to speak or communicate will help clear up any confusion if an autistic person has a run-in with the police or other emergency services. If a person with autism cannot communicate or seems uncooperative — whether due to speech difficulties, distress, or injury — displaying this card is a quick and simple way to make their condition clear.
Talking to the police can be nerve-wracking for many people, but for those with autism it can be especially confusing and distressing. This can trigger panic, confrontation, or cause the person to flee, all of which can escalate the situation.
“The Tri-Force Autism Passport will help ensure that members of the autistic community receive a consistent high standard of service and are treated with understanding and respect whenever they come into contact with the police,” said John Nelson, Chair of the National Police Autism Association and a sergeant with the British Transport Police.
Those in London can get the autism cards from police and autism partnership boards.
A collaboration between multiple police departments that is supported by the National Police Autism Association, the cards were produced after consults with various autism agencies and charities.
“Having an encounter with police — whether as a victim, someone officers are concerned for the welfare of, or as a suspect — is an unsettling encounter for anybody, but for someone with autism, it can be extremely distressing,” said Detective Superintendent Helen Lyons in a statement. “It could be the confrontation with a stranger, or the idea of physical contact that triggers an adverse, nervous reaction in that person and potentially escalate the situation. Officers currently have no way of knowing whether someone has autism, a condition which may explain their behaviour.
“This card solves that problem, and will give officers the best chance to seek the appropriate assistance and support for that person.”
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.