Autism Cards: The Best Information to Present
Autism cards, also called autism ID cards or autism alert cards, provide a way to communicate to someone, such as a first responder, that you have autism. They also include information on how to have a safe interaction.
Autism can sometimes alter communication styles, impair eye contact, and discourage physical touch. An autism card can explain this and potentially improve outcomes of interactions with the public.
What Is an Autism ID Card?
An autism ID card is something a person with autism can carry in their wallet to identify their medical condition to first responders, such as firefighters, law enforcement, and medical personnel in case of an emergency. The autism card can contain basic information on autism and what to expect during an interaction.
People with autism often do not enjoy physical touch and can become agitated when touched. The lack of eye contact and differences in communication can also be seen as a failure to comply or as hostility even though this is not the case.
An autism card can help explain differences in communication styles and that autism is a medical condition and does not mean that the person is unwilling or acting in a suspicious manner. The public does not necessarily understand that it may take someone with autism longer to comply, and the autism card can help diffuse the situation.
Emergency situations can cause a lot of stress to all individuals, and this can be especially true for those with autism. The autism card can improve interactions with first responders in the event of an emergency to ensure safety and security for all parties.
Information to Include
An autism card is usually wallet-sized and laminated so it can be carried on your person at all times like an ID. Cards should contain your basic information, such as your printed name and birthday. The autism card also needs to state that you have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and some basic information about what that means.
Basic statements on what to expect during a stressful interaction to include on the autism card can be:
- I am on the autism spectrum and have social and communication disabilities.
- I want to cooperate; however, I may not look you in the eye or answer questions directly.
- I may not understand what you ask me to do. Please do not see this as a failure to comply.
- I do not like to be touched and may become agitated so please do not restrain me.
- I am listening even if I am not looking at you.
- I take things literally and may come across as rude or disrespectful and speak in unusual intonations.
- Please speak to me in a clear, calm, and concise manner and tell me step-by-step exactly what you need me to do and what is happening.
- It can take me more time to process information and follow instructions. Please be patient.
- Call one of my emergency contacts listed.
Be sure to include at least one or two emergency contacts, listing their name and contact information. This should be a person who can help explain ASD to the first responder and describe the best way to manage the situation to help calm you down.
It should also be someone who is nearby and able to come and help first responders at the scene, or at least talk on the phone to diffuse the situation, when necessary. A family member or caregiver makes a good emergency contact.
Additional Useful Data to Include
Autism is a spectrum disorder and does not look the same for everyone. The statements about autism you should include on an autism card should be tailored to you directly and discuss your specifics. For example, if lights and sounds are especially overwhelming or change is particularly difficult, be sure to include statements that indicate this.
It is important to be as clear and concise as possible on your autism card, including anywhere from three to five statements about autism, depending on your specific qualities. You want to give enough information to help the interaction go as smoothly and safely as possible. But first responders do not have time to read a lot of details, so be as concise as possible.
You can also decide to include information on your doctor or medical care team on your autism card. This may not be necessary as long as you have an emergency contact or two listed.
Who Needs an Autism Card?
Autistic teenagers, children, and adults can benefit from carrying an autism card. An autism card is a great way to identify to first responders that you have autism and may act in a manner that can be atypical.
This card can be carried in your wallet and used in an emergency. These cards can be especially useful when you are in public without a caregiver or trusted person who can explain the condition.
How to Use Autism Cards
There are some essential things to consider when using an autism card to keep everyone safe and maintain calm. Remember to:
- Ask the first responder if you can reach for your wallet and your card before you reach for it.
- Stay calm and precise with your movements.
- Explain where your card is and why you need it before getting it out.
- Practice talking to first responders and showing your card with a trusted person beforehand, so you better know what to expect.
Autism cards can be used beyond emergencies in non-confrontational situations as well. For example, they can also be helpful at medical and dental appointments.
Example Autism Cards
There are a number of different downloadable autism cards on the market that you can find, print, fill out, cut out, and laminate to carry in your wallet. Here is a sample template.
Many cards are two-sided with one side containing information about autism and the other specifying your details. These cards are often bright yellow in color.
Some cards can contain all of the information on one side.
An autism card can be a valuable tool to let people know a little more about the disorder and how to best help you through a potentially challenging situation.
- Safety Products and Services. (2021). Autism Speaks.
- What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder? (March 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Autism Alert Card. National Autistic Society.
- Safety: Medical ID Bracelets and Wallet Cards. (2021). The Asperger/Autism Network (AANE).
- Wallet Card for Disclosure for First Responders and Law Enforcers. The Asperger/Autism Network (AANE).
- Autism Card. National Autistic Society (NAS).