How to use the Devon Autism Alert Card?

On this page:

  • How the Autism Alert Card is an effective tool
  • Ideas about when and where to use the card
  • Pointers about when and where not to use the card


The Devon Autism Alert Card is a practical tool for everybody on the Autism Spectrum


Simply pull the Devon Autism Alert Card out of your wallet or purse and show it. No need to speak or look at anybody. It is supported by the Devon & Cornwall Police amongst other organisations, so display it with confidence.

Direct the recipient’s attention to the text on the back and your emergency contact numbers. Whether they need to ring the numbers depends on whether you using the card as a remedy or protective measure (see below).

Note the text on the back:

  • You could have communication difficulties with me
  • Your behaviour may seem confusing and/or threatening
  • You do not understand my thought processes
  • I may be frightened, feel threatened and overwhelmed
  • My sensory processing is very likely overloaded

The first three lines are designed to make the card’s recipient change their own behaviour and to prevent them making assumptions.

Their behaviour then becomes their responsibility, and you are free to behave as you please (within reason!). Many of us find this helpful. We no longer feel pressured to conform to the very same norms of mainstream behaviour that might be the source of our stress. We can stop everything if needed or talk in a manner that suits us. Each of us has our own comfort zone.

If you are showing it to a police officer, Emergency worker, health professional or Local Authority Worker then you have a very clear right to be treated in a respectful manner. Again, display with confidence and if necessary (but only if necessary):

  • Insist on your contact names being phoned
  • Ask that appropriate protocols are followed
  • Request an Autism-trained person is present
  • Explain any specfic Autistic needs that you have AND expect that they be met

When to use the Autism Alert Card

Users in other regions have found an Autism Alert Card has three main helpful functions:

  • A remedy
    For when we are already in a stressful and painful situation, and we need to get out.
  • A protective measure
    For when we think things might become difficult or stressful or we are being expected to conform to mainstream norms that just do not feel right to us. Show it before we start feeling bad in any sense at all.
  • A confidence builder
    A general confidence boost knowing we have such a powerful tool in our pocket.
  • A remedy

We can get overwhelmed by noise, eye contact, questions, feelings, touch, smells, conversation, lights, people....and people.... and people…

And this especially happens in stressful situations: accidents, misunderstandings, social situations, public situations, contact with police or emergency services….

But when we are being overwhelmed it is a challenge to tell people of our condition. We need to keep a handle on so many things that one more interaction can be physically painful.

Use the Autism Alert Card now! As soon as possible after things start to go bad. It is a challenge; A meltdown is difficult to have any control over. But remember, displaying the card can at the very least put things on pause.

Here’s what might happen depending on where the problem lies:

  • The environment?

Then they need to either change it or we can withdraw

  • A communication problem?

Wait until our communication preferences are respected

  • A misunderstanding?

They need to take responsibility as much (and possibly more) as we might.

  • An accident?

Our needs should be identified and respected. At the very least, police and emergency services should realise that our needs are different from others.

There is a much better chance that the stress level decreases, and what could be a traumatic episode reduces to something we can handle.

It does not mean that our own behaviour is faultless. We can deal with that when given the space.

  • A Protective Measure

In an ideal world we can look after ourselves better by showing the card before we are overloaded in any way. We can have more chance of a stress free encounter.

We do not need to be worried or already obsessing. Showing it just states that we want to be treated as equal and different.

Examples of when you might like to show the card before any interaction happens:

  • Talking to the police or emergency services
  • The first meeting with a new doctor
  • Face to face with Local Authority staff or government departments
  • Dealing with the job centre or the benefits office.
  • In any business premises that require you to negotiate a conversation: bank, building society, post office, shop…
  • When we can see potential problems arising at work we can show it to a manager. Remember, it is illegal for the condition to be disclosed to other employees without your permission.
  • On the phone. Whilst we obviously can not show it down the phone, we can state ‘I am on the Autistic Spectrum and have an Autism Alert Card. I find this form of communicating very challenging. I would like to know your protocols for interacting with Autistic individuals and require flexibility on your part’.
  • On the phone to utilities, call centres, financial institutions, Local Authorities, The Benefits office, the tax people….

It is an elegant way to ensure people consider our condition and treat us with respect.

  • A confidence builder

We might use the card once a month, once a year, once in five years.... but that each once can help us in ways that only we can know.

Just carrying the card makes us confident we have the full support in our pocket. Handling it in situations where we are unsure can serve as as sensory focus to keep other sensory issues intruding.

There’s also a wider confidence that come with knowing that there are enough organisations supporting the card. Some people know that things need to be made better for the Autistic Community and are working to achieve that.

And over time as we use the card more and more people are going to become calmer and more understanding about the neurodiverse. They can always visit this site to find out what to do when shown the Autism Alert Card.

Examples of when not to use the Autism Alert Card


If we are wanting adjustments made for Autism, then we need to realise that these adjustments only need to be reasonable. They might not be possible. Some examples follow.

  • In a pub
    We have no idea what the pub goers know or do not know about Autism, or what half truths, idiocies or prejudices they might have picked up. Leave them.
    If we find the pub is too noisy or smelly for our tastes, then leave.
  • Talking to strangers
    Again, we have no idea what weird baggage strangers might be carrying in their heads about Autism. If a situation starts to make us feel bad then that is a good sign to avoid them and keep our card in our pocket.
  • Do not show it as an excuse.
    Autism does not excuse hurting other people. Our card is not a ‘Get out of jail free’ card. It might be reason but it is not an excuse.
    Showing a card can help explain our non-mainstream type of behaviour if it has been misinterpreted negatively. If we are using it as a reason and we have hurt someone’s feelings, then we can also apologise. Sadly, the life time of the universe is too short to wait for apologies from another party.
  • In a nightclub or similar
    Some places are designed for sensory overload. People who do not like that do not go there.
  • In a commercial establishment that is targeting a certain clientele
    Be reasonable. If we intend to go to a football match and approach the organisers about asking the spectators to refrain from shouting…that’s not really going to run.
  • On a plane
    Again, it is all about reasonable adjustments. If an individual has boarded a plane, then they should know what to expect.

We will each find our own unique way, and as we discover new uses then share them with us here: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.