Mr. Ryan Lessard, a reporter for The New Hampshire Union Leader shared a heartfelt story with about a young man named Hunter Richardson who is on the autism spectrum. In the spring of 2018, Richardson was pulled over by the police on his way home from work after going through a red light by accident. The police officer started to question Richardson. Richardson became very overwhelmed and according to the police officer “he thought his behavior was odd.” Richardson’s mother, Kelly Richardson, stated that “Because of his autism, she said, his idiosyncratic behavior was deemed “suspicious” by police, Richardson told The New Hampshire Union Leader. Richardson’s mother continued, “People with autism spectrum disorder may not make eye contact and can struggle to communicate clearly, especially in stressful situations”, stated Richardson’s mother to The New Hampshire Union.
Because of this encounter, Richardson’s mother and Richardson decided to go to plead their case at the House Transportation Committee later that year. Richardson’s mother argued that if Richardson had a marker on his license displaying that he has Autism Spectrum Disorder , this could prevent this situation from happening in the future. Richardson and Richardson’s mother won their case. Starting next year in the spring of 2019, The Department of Motor Vehicles will offer every New Hampshire resident a voluntary option to include the medically recognized disorder on licenses, if the driver provides a letter from a physician.
This same situation happened to Johanna Verberg in Sheffield, Alabama. Verberg told Spectrum News that she got into a verbal altercation with another woman at her therapist’s office. The office manager ended up calling the police. Verberg told Spectrum News that she was diagnosed with ASD a month prior. Verberg continued “When I get nervous, for example, I stretch my fingers, crack my jaw and play with my rings- that keeps me calm.” Verberg tells Spectrum news that “when she’s around authority figures, such as the police, she says, she starts “shutting down” and has trouble communicating.”
This situation is not a rare occurrence and people all over the country are rallying for better training and understanding for individuals with special needs and the police.