Child with Autism on Board

This afternoon, my husband and I rallied the troops and invited Lance, who was home for the weekend, for a trip to the indoor pool in Prairie du Chien, WI, about a 40 minute drive. This indoor pool is our main family activity once fall has set in, and this would be our first visit since the local outdoor pool opened this spring. We were on the way there, talking and eating lunch, and hollering at kids, when we encountered a state trooper who noticed that I was driving… Entirely too fast. I wasn’t paying attention to my speed, just the road and whether or not Evie needed more french fries. In any case, we were pulled over.

Olin saw the lights, saw us slow down, and immediately started wondering. “Are we going to be arrested? Are we going to go to jail? Did you go too fast? Did we get a ticket? Are we going to jail?” In his typical Olin way, he was worried, and vocal, and repetitive. (I’m just glad he has gotten over his completely random ‘I’m gonna KILL COPS!’ phase…)

We were pulled over by a state trooper. Tim was in the passenger seat, and of course I had a license that needed the address updated, and in my glove box was all the insurance information from 2013, but none that was current. I found a registration, but it was so old. He just took one back to his cruiser and ran the plates. I didn’t have a current proof of insurance, mostly just a sheaf of old documents. Tim wanted to look up proof of coverage on his phone, but couldn’t remember his password. I thought I had downloaded one for just this kind of situation, but it would have been expired, anyway.

Those few minutes when you’re pulled over by a policeman, regardless of your race or background or passengers, is stressful. You’re clearly bad, somehow. Having a child with autism in the back seat makes every bad thing you might have done, and every bad thing that might happen that much more stressful, because you don’t know what he’ll do or say. A trooper at your window is scary for a normal person. But what happens when your passenger is a ticking time bomb that may explode with anything?

When the patrolman came back to my window, Olin was petrified that we would all be arrested and jailed. I accepted my speeding ticket and insurance proof warning, and hoped that we could go on. Olin was pretty tense, as was I, but Tim was on an Emergency Stress High that made anything Olin mentioned about the incident a Serious Problem. Olin thought we’d be arrested, and kept reminding the party of our violation.

I ended up with a fine that equals about half of my bi-weekly paycheck, and a warning to make sure my proof of insurance is current. The bigger issue was that Olin couldn’t let it go and neither could Tim. He was very snippy and upset for a couple of hours – not because we had gotten pulled over, but because of Olin’s reaction to it, and his flat-out organic inability to not stop talking about it.

As we continued, Tim mentioned that he had seen a sticker on a car once in a Wal-Mart that said, “Autistic Child on Board”.


I said, “Who cares if there’s an autistic child on board? It’s like ‘Baby on Board’. Good for you for having a kid. That doesn’t make anyone drive differently.” He said it explained something more than that, in small print, about how autistic kids acted, but he couldn’t remember exactly what.

We got to the swimming pool unscathed, aside from my huge fine for speeding, but I was still thinking about the ‘on-board’ sticker.

Baby-on-Board signs have always annoyed me as being pretentious and self-congratulatory, but I was intrigued and curious, and I did some searching.

I have thought for awhile that my vehicle needs a bumper sticker saying, “WARNING: Contents Under Pressure.” That’s funny and true in a number of ways, but maybe not as specific as it needs to be. In looking at the ‘on board’ signs out there, the reason for them becomes clearer. They tend to say, “CHILD WITH [DISORDER] ON BOARD. IN AN EMERGENCY SITUATION, PLEASE BE AWARE CHILD MAY: RUN AWAY, RESIST HELP, NOT UNDERSTAND, OR HAVE NO AWARENESS OF DANGER.” Others also mention, “MAY NOT RESPOND TO VERBAL COMMANDS.”

That would be both useful and relevant, if my van full of family finds itself upside-down in a culvert, and emergency workers are trying to convince Olin to unbuckle his unconscious sister. Or something.

Kind of makes me think having something like that might not be a bad idea, all things considered.

What do you think?

P.S. As a side note, in my search I also came across available “Princess [Customized Name] [Customized Photo] On Board” signs. That strikes me as an invitation for kidnapping. Good grief.




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