Father hopes decals can protect the autistic, emergency responders

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on August 7, 2012 at 11:00 PM

DENTON COUNTY - Inside My Infinite Possibilities in Denton, a care facility for developmentally-disabled adults, Artez Carmichael shines.

For his father, Brent Carmichael, watching his 26-year-old son grow into his independence from the dark, lonely world of autism, fills him with pride.

"He's doing great," Brent Carmichael said. "He's enjoying life, and I'm not there to cover over him -- 'Don't do this, don't do that.' He's doing things on his own."

But, there's one worry the dad can't shake. It lingers at home and in the car.

He's troubled by the possible outcome if his son and police come to face to face.

"Once he sees the lights, all that kind of stuff, the anxiety comes, and once that anxiety hits, I never know what reaction I'm gonna get, if it's wanting to get out of the car, or acting fidgety," the father said.

He has seen similar tense moments turn into tragedy in other states; Mohammad Usman Chaudry, 21. Steven Eugene Washington, 27. Kevin Colindres, 18. All of them died after their encounters with law enforcement.

"That is probably my biggest fear," Brent Carmichael said.

It's a threatening situation Carmichael wants to avoid. He wants cities across North Texas to implement a program that will help officers, firefighters and paramedics when they encounter an autistic child or adult in the field.

He's pushing for a decal that aims to give first responders a head's up when arriving at a home or approaching a car. Carmichael created the sticker through his 4-U Academy, a non-profit organization that helps families touched by autism.

"If there's an emblem, or there's a way an officer once he stops you or a firefighter who comes to a fire, sees something in the window, they automatically know that there's someone with autism in that vehicle or home, [and] their training would kick in," the dad said.

Carmichael also supports creating a voluntary autism 911 registry for families. During an emergency call, dispatchers can give police and fire valuable information about the person.

"How do you make sure both are safe?" Carmichael said. "You educate and you make aware and you give strategies. You provide ways that they can recognize and respond, because then you can save lives."

It's a father's crusade to protect his son. A game plan to find a peaceful end, without violence and lives lost in confusion.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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