Family pushes for autism symbol to be added to New York driver’s licenses


Family pushes for autism symbol to be added to New York driver’s licenses

PUTNAM LAKE, N.Y. — For Pete and Denise Gagliardo of Putnam Lake in New York, the epiphany for placing the autism symbol on the New York State Driver’s License came during the season opening episode of ABC’s hit show “The Good Doctor.”

“It popped into my mind about kids that are on the spectrum. What happens to my son now that he is driving if he gets pulled over in this instance,” Pete said. “What is he going to do if something happens out of the norm.”

So Pete, thinking of his 18-year-old son Ryan who has autism, put his idea on paper.

He sent a letter to 20 New York legislators, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo who responded and said he would look into the proposal.

Yonkers State Assemblyman Nader Sayegh went even further. The Westchester Democrat drafted a bill designed to turn the Gagliardo’s idea into reality.

“I jumped on it because I like being pro-active and when something makes sense, why delay,” Sayegh said.

A quick internet search shows there have been multiple instances, in New York and across the country, where a police officer took aggressive action to subdue an uncooperative driver, only to find out later the driver was autistic.

Autism advocates said officers may have approached the situations differently if they had known the drivers had autism.

“They’re able to see the person is on the spectrum and they can respond accordingly as far as they can turn it down a notch,” said Sgt. Gerald Locascio, of the Town of Kent Police Department. “They can, if there are other officers responding for whatever the situation is, they can advise them to back it down with the lights, the siren.”

Denise and her son know exactly how Ryan would respond if an officer pulled him over.

“He’s never been experienced with an officer before in that close capacity, and that would make him seem that he was agitated,” Denise said.

“Do you think that might be interpreted by the officer as being uncooperative?” asked a reporter from ABC7’s sister station, WABC.

“Yes,” Ryan said.

Sayegh’s bill still needs approval from the full state assembly. His search for a co-sponsor in the senate is now underway.

He anticipates almost universal support and told WABC the legislation could be on the governor’s desk by the end of June.

Autism Acceptance Month Day #19 – Autism and Driving

Today, I am going to revisit the topic of Autism and Driving. While it is a proud achievement of mine, I still have some concerns about driving in the future.

While for some autism and driving are a good fit, oftentimes there are several individials that indeed struggle at the task, especially at Intercity driving, highway driving, etc. Likewise caregivers express concerns of individuals driving for fear of anxiety and meltdowns, etc. To get an caregivers perspective, I have included a video of another individual on the spectrum as their caregiver expresses her concerns on her Facebook page.

Sooooooo…. this driving thing…..
Chevy is an excellent technical driver.
Chevy has NO FEAR, and NO NERVES about being a new driver.
Chevy, if anything, is over-confident when it comes to driving ( note the one hand on wheel, as if he’s been doing it his whole life…)


Chevy still only has his Learner’s, and I think I’m to blame.

As parents we don’t want to hold our kids back from reaching goals that others their age already have.

But I am scared, damn it. I mean really scared.

There are issues too long to list here, but my number one worry is his need for stimulation, and his sensory seeking. I’ve been in the car with him when he’s suddenly got the urge to put the pedal to the metal, just for the thrill. And it’s different that any typical young person with a ‘need for speed’…. it’s a ‘no rules apply in this moment but my own’.

He IS an excellent driver.
He IS abiding of MOST road rules ( probably more than the average person )
He IS wanting to get his full license.

But I’m not.
I’m not ready.

I struggle with this almost daily…. IS this me being over protective…? IS this me being a Nervous Nelly? Orrrrrrrr, is my son on the autism spectrum, and with that, comes the ever-present unpredictability factor that means anything could happen at any time……

I know I have to take him to get his lisence. Just look at how freakin happy he is in this video.

Sigh…I want to retract my earlier statement of being scared.
I’m terrified.
I’m terrified of him getting his lisence.
I’m terrified of him NOT getting his lisence.

And therein lies the conflict in every ASD parent’s mind, every minute of every day.

We are scared of what they can’t do, and we are scared of what they CAN.

In my opinion, I feel that she does have valid concerns as do my parents. However it is a decision I have to make and it is difficult for me right now and I have struggled with it at times to times I have had some heated conversations with my mother. Nonetheless, I do see her concerns and I know I have them too. Likewise due to financial constraints, I feel like getting a car at this time is not a viable option for me right now.

I too have to realize that in the last nine and a half months I have made alot of changes my life that have in addition to having a driver’s license, but also moving into my new place among other things. While I am putting driving on the back burner for now, I am choosing to take care of myself this year.

Some think that not wanting to drive is not my choice, in fact it is my choice to NOT drive. This decision while partially based from a financial standpoint, also takes into play my symptoms of my mental health such as anxiety. I think by me moving on my own has provided better access to public transportation as well as the central areas of my town. Additionally there are ample opportunities for recreation among other things. So I am satisfied at the present time.

A side note is that anxiety runs my family, in fact some members of my family have/had driver’s licenses, however were/are too anxious to Operate a vehicle under standard driving conditions. With that being said I am unsure of what the future entails, but for right now I am happy with what I have.

Before Learning to Drive, A Learner’s Permit was required, a struggle best describes it

I wanted to write another blog post to follow up on my first report on getting my driver’s license last week. I thought I would be worth explaining the struggle to get the permit alone, as it was a difficult task and as I was excited to just have a driver’s license. This is because I was writing a newsletter article for the entity that I recieve employment services through. I will share that once it is published mid-February.

Think Long, Think Wrong

Once I began the recovery journey, have pondered over the last decade about obtaining a driver’s license. The same entity that I receive job supports through also provided driving instruction. In fact, I knew the gentleman assigned to the post, as he worked with me in my youth as my casemanager. I even got more stoked when a close acquantice through the agency got his license. When he got his, I was more stoked, to the point I would get the physical form requred for the permit filled out my my practiconier. However, soon after he graduated, I would learn that due to fiscal austerity the program would be discontinued in my area and if I wanted to pursue this, I would have to seek other options.

I knew that studying for my permit wouldn’t be hard, as I obsessed on traffic signs as  young child. It would just be learning manuvers, laws and other pertinent information, like teen driver and DUI laws, etc. Here in Pennsylvania, a Android App made this easier and I began in earnest for this, practicing occasionally.

Better Late than Never

As time went on I realized that taking the knowledge test became a necessity. Therefore, I had a close friend escort me to the local DMV. The DMV can be a very diffucult venue with someone on the spectrum, as in my area, it was undersized, crowded and overstimulating. Nonetheless, my wait was short and a proceeded to the proper destination when my number was called upon.

As I was seated, I had all necessary paperwork, all that would neeed to be administered would be a simple eye examination. Simple, I thought, because I was at the eye doctor less than a week prior, I would have no trouble. I was wrong! When I looked in the device, which was ancient, I read what was seen, and the proctor stated that I was blind in one eye. He then stated that I would have to have my eye doctor fill out a form for me to proceed and if I met the state law for vision requirements, I could take my knowledge test. He said that it would be up to them.

I was shocked, maybe because like many other individuals on the spectrum, I took this seriously. As I told my friend she was shocked, and would drive me home.  She instructed me to cover each eye and read road signs, etc. Could there be faulty equiment? I was very doubtful and was regresing some Meanwhile,  I went back to the eye doctor and had the state form filled out. But, I would be hesitant on going back to that DMV anyway.

Another County, Another World

As time neared, I had to muster the courage to visit a DMV, and as such, I had a week left on the physical form. So on Easter Saturday, my mom would escort me to the DMV in a neighboring county, as we are within a half hour drive of either and it was close to my sister’s house. I went early in the morning, being a Saturday, the center is usually attended by teens . As I went in a driver’s instructor said good luck and I went in, the first one for the day,

I handed all my paperwork to the proctor and she said because I had the form filled out by the eye doctor, she would not need to provide the eye examination and that I could take the knowledge test. She directs me to the computer, I put on the headphones and begin, I take  my time and narrow the answers, and answer the questions, of which when submitted return a correct response. In Pennsylvania, 15 out of the 18 randomly selected questions is required for approval. After answering the fifteenth question, I am directed to visit the proctor, where she tells me that I earned my learner’s permit and directs me to write a payment for the four year license, a standard in Pennsylvania

After I leave the center, I go to my sister’s house where she took this photo in her kitchen. Sadly,  I was not wearing the best of clothes, as I was wearing a thrift-shop shirt representing a neighboring school district that was a little snug. None the less, she makes the following photo. I later sharded it on my autism page that same day.

learner's permi

I have a permit, now I don’t want to learn.

With the permit, I had a year to take my exam. There was the option to extend it, however in psychotherapy, this was not a option. My mother offered to assist me in paying for lessons, but the buck stopped at her teaching her as she had difficulty in teaching my sister. The search began. One day, I was in a local convenence store where I seen a ad for a specialized driving school. I went home and did my research, the website, Facebook and Google reviews, etc. The number I knew was a cell phone exchange and I was hesitant in calling. Nonetheless, I mustered up the courage to call, the dreaded voicemail. I immedately hung up.

Not a few minutes later, he calls back. I explain my interest in taking driver’s lessons. He asks me a few simple questions, like how old I am, and have I ever drove a car. He then proceeds to ask if I have any disabilites. I feel open enough to elude to him that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. He then asks if I have a job. I state yes. He now instructs me to call my local Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) as they will assist me in paying for the lessons as it is a step to independence.  I call OVR the next day and they instruct me to go online to fill out a referral, of which my job support staff assist me in completing.

A few weeks go by and I hear no response from the OVR district office. Family and friends direct me to call the local office. and I did. The operator linked me to the assigned counselor and we talk for a bit and a meeting is needed to re-open my case. This would be the third time for such activity. I had attended their post secondary school over 14 years ago and the last time was nine years ago whwn the job supports assisted me in getting stuff I needed for my job when I needed it.

I go to the local field office on a Thursday and fill out the required forms to open my case. The counselor is overly friendly, I share my prior experiences with OVR and she states how the agency has chaged for the better. We close by her giving me a folder with informatioon.  The next steps are to develop an goal plan then proceed with a goal completion in January 2019,

It Gets Even Better

Four days later, I get a call from who would now be my apartment manager stating their was a opening here and would I like to move in beginning in August. I graciously accepted and would spend over a month, prepping and moving in.  (I will write articles o this later.) Within that transition, I did not change my contact information with OVR and the counselor called my house. Nonetheless, I called her right back and we set up a time to go over the goal plan, still keeping the same school I want and the target goal date of January 2019.

The next month, I get a purchase order from OVR in the mail and my instructor calls the next day. You could say the rest is history. We began instruction the following week. Again, read my prior post my learning to drive.