A proposed law advancing through the New Jersey Legislature aims to improve interactions between law enforcement and individuals with autism and other communication disorders.

Under the bill, these individuals would have the option to add a special note to their driver's license or non-driver identification card, that would indicate that they've been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or another communication issue.

That note would go under the section of the license that's reserved for "restrictions."

"Oftentimes, people who present with speech and language problems and hearing disorders may present as perhaps being under the influence or having some other types of problems," Kathleen Spillman-Kennedy, president-elect of the New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association, told a Senate panel while testifying in favor of the bipartisan legislation.

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The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee voted to advance the bill on Oct. 31. An Assembly version was last approved by a committee in March.

In addition to creating a license notation, the bill calls for the creation of guidance to assist police in effectively communicating with a person who's been diagnosed with a communication disorder.

“The stress of being pulled over or being involved in an accident can make it even more difficult for some individuals to express themselves clearly,” said Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Passaic. “This bill will increase understanding for police and emergency personnel and help ensure a peaceful resolution.”

Democratic Sen. Nellie Pou is also a prime sponsor of the measure.

The special note would not be an automatic for individuals on the autism spectrum; it'd be added upon request by the individual or their caregiver. Documentation would be required to prove one's claim.

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